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Victims of Domestic Violence and Residential Leases – New Legislation

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Domestic violence is a significant problem in Saskatchewan. With StatsCan reporting some terrible statistics regard the rate of violence in province, the Government of Saskatchewan has tried to clear another hurdle in having someone leave a dangerous situation.  This post will try to explain the legislation (that is not yet in effect – it must be proclaimed first) for both those victims of domestic violence and those landlords that are uncertain how this affects them.

The explanatory notes of the legislation are here, and the legislation is located here.

Various media outlets have reported this legislation fairly simply. The basic understanding of the legislation is that if you are a victim of domestic violence that you need to provide 28 days notice to remove yourself from a lease.  After reading these reports, I put my lawyer hat on and was curious how a landlord was supposed to know or accept that someone was a victim of domestic violence.

In review of the legislation, the process is much more detailed than that. This bill amends two main pieces of legislation: The Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 and The Victims of Interpersonal Violence Act. While I suspect all details are not complete (as there is likely some regulations/forms that need to be drafted), the legislation provides the framework for how this process will operate.

The process, in summary form is as follows:

  1. The victim needs to get a certificate (that will be served on the landlord to break the lease) from an authorized person. In order for the certificate to be issued, the authorized person needs a copy of a relevant order dealing with the domestic violence (like a peace bond or emergency intervention order), and a statement from an enumerated professional (social worker, doctor, police officer, etc) indicating that in the professional’s opinion the individual is subject to domestic violence from cohabiting with the victim. The authorized person then has to determine that there is a continuing risk to the victim if the tenancy continues. If that authorized person has all that information, and determines that there is a risk, they issue the certificate.In short, it is not a cake walk to get one of these certificates. There are a number of difficult procedural steps for a victim to obtain one.
  2. In order to break the lease, the victim needs to serve on the landlord the certificate, and written notice terminating the lease at least 28 days in advance of the termination date. The notice needs to:
  • be dated and identified as originating from the tenant giving the notice;
  • state the effective date of the end of the tenancy;
  • state that the grounds for ending the tenancy are interpersonal violence; and
  • be served no later than 90 days after the date on which the certificate is issued.

There are a variety of other important pieces to the legislation as well. For example:

  • A victim can request in writing that the damage deposit be used for the last month’s rent.
  • The rent for those 28 days is required to be prorated if the termination ends before a regular payment date. There can be no liquidated damages for ending the lease early.
  • The tenancy is ended for all parties if ended in this fashion, not just the victim. However, the landlord and the other tenant(s) can still agree on a new lease following the termination if they want.
  • The landlord has the requirements to keep all information about the tenant private when the lease is terminated in this way, subject to the relevant regulations.
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