House Bill 834 - Georgia's New Leasing Law

House Bill 834 - Georgia's New Leasing Law

By Jill Schirling-Allison

Managing Legal Advocate Fulton County, Safe Families Office

Jane, after enduring years of abuse at her husband’s hands, is finally ready to leave. Jane comes to the Safe Families office in the Fulton County courthouse and meets with a PADV legal advocate. “I need to get out of this relationship, but I still have three months left on my lease,” she says. “If I stay in my apartment where he can find me, he will kill me. I can stay with a friend for a month or two but after that, I just don’t know how I will get another apartment for myself if I break this lease and have that on my credit. I am so ready to leave, I am so scared he is going to finally kill me, but I’m also terrified of my daughter and me ending up homeless!”

This is a scenario we hear often at PADV. Survivors left with few options, with some of the options potentially causing years of damage to their financial wellbeing.

New legislation is helping to change this. House Bill 834, which passed in the 2018 Georgia legislative session, allows domestic violence victims to terminate their lease without consequences. The bill states that a lease must have been started, extended or made on July 1, 2018 or later for a victim to get out of their lease without penalty. If you are a victim of domestic violence and your lease began or was extended before the July 1, 2018 timeframe you can always speak to your landlord or leasing agency to see if they are willing to work with you. You may also contact PADV with questions at 404-873-1766.

To qualify for the legal protection provided under this bill, a domestic violence victim must have a civil or criminal family violence order such as a 12-month Temporary Protective Order (TPO) or bond conditions that state the abuser is not allowed to have contact with the victim. A survivor may use an ex-parte TPO order, but only if there is also a police report showing the reason for the order. If a victim did not make a police report during the incident that led to the TPO, the victim can make a police report about the acts of violence of the perpetrator at any time. Unfortunately, the bill does not cover stalking protective orders, only family violence. The survivor must give the landlord/ leasing office a 30-day WRITTEN notice of their intent to break the lease and must provide the leasing agent with a copy of the family violence order. The survivor is responsible for the rent during that 30-day period.

House Bill 834 also offers some relief for survivors who are dealing with another common problem, getting the abuser served with the TPO. The bill allows for the initial, ex-parte TPO to be extended an additional 30 days if it is believed that the abuser is trying to avoid being served.  

At PADV, we are thankful our legislatures had the foresight to pass House Bill 834, which expands the options survivors have to access safety.