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Jun 30, 2020

California Tenant Law Domestic Violence

If you are living in a rental property with someone who has accused you of domestic violence, then it is imperative that you understand all of the implications of that accusation. In addition to the substantial criminal liability that you face, if your accuser leases your apartment, condominium, or house, then you may also face the loss of your home. Under California tenant law, domestic violence accusers can terminate their leases and incur virtually no penalties.

When Domestic Violence Accusers Can Terminate Their Lease

If you’ve been accused of committing acts of domestic violence against someone you live with, you should be aware of California Civil Code Section 1946.7. That is the California tenant law relating to domestic violence. Under California law, a tenant can inform their landlord that they were, or a member of their household was, a domestic violence victim. If they submit the proper documentation, they can terminate their lease.

Let’s say that Cindy and William share an apartment, and that Cindy’s name is on the lease. Cindy can notify the landlord that she’s been the victim of domestic violence and end the lease. The notification to the landlord has to include one of the following:

Restraining Order: Cindy can include a copy of a temporary restraining order, emergency protective order, or protective order that is designed to protect her from further domestic violence.

Police Report: Cindy can attach a copy of the law enforcement officer’s statement indicating that she has filed a report of domestic violence.

Third-Party Statement: Cindy can include documentation from a professional attesting to the fact that Cindy has sought help for physical or mental injuries sustained as a result of domestic violence.

California tenant law specifies the information that must be included in Cindy’s statement, going so far as to include a sample form in the statute. Part I of the form includes the tenant’s attestation that they have been a victim, the date or dates of the most recent incident or incidents, and the name and physical description of the alleged perpetrator. Part II of the form is the third-party statement. That person must include their contact information, their role, and, if applicable, their state license number. The attestor roles allowed by the law are:

  • Sexual assault counselor
  • Domestic violence counselor
  • Human trafficking caseworker
  • Physician or surgeon
  • Osteopathic physician or surgeon
  • Registered nurse
  • Psychiatrist
  • Psychologist
  • Licensed clinical social worker
  • Licensed marriage and family therapist
  • Licensed professional clinical counselor

In order to terminate the lease, Cindy has to submit her statement and documentation within 180 days of the date listed on the protective order or within 180 days of the date written on the third-party statement. One hundred and eighty days is six months. That’s a long time. Let’s say that something went down between William and Cindy in January, and that Cindy got a restraining order. Or maybe she saw a counselor and got them to sign a third-party statement. In February, she and William got back together. Flash forward four months. Cindy and William have a fight in early June and Cindy decides to get revenge by sending February’s paperwork to their landlord. That’s enough to break the lease and put William out on the street.

Once Cindy sends the notice and supporting documentation to the landlord, she’s responsible for a maximum of 14 days of additional rent. If she and William are both on the lease, then William is on the hook for the rest of the term of the lease.

If you’ve been accused of or arrested for domestic violence in Alameda County, time is not on your side. The consequences of a domestic violence conviction can have a domino effect that impacts whether or not you have a roof over your head. An experienced Oakland domestic violence attorney can help you fight the charges and keep the prospect of being locked out of your home at bay.

When Landlords Can Terminate Leases Because of Domestic Violence

The California Code of Civil Procedure Section 1161.3 outlines the domestic violence-related circumstances under which a landlord can terminate or opt not to renew a lease. The law says that a landlord neither terminate nor refuse to renew a lease due to an act of domestic violence against the tenant or a member of the tenant’s household as long as:

  1. The domestic violence has been documented by a protective order, a police report, or third-party documentation, as described above; and
  2. The alleged perpetrator isn’t a tenant or household member of the same apartment or house.

In other words, Cindy’s landlord can’t kick her out of her apartment if William doesn’t live with her and she has documentation of domestic violence.

However, under California law, the landlord can kick Cindy out after she submits documentation if she allows William to visit her apartment or if the landlord believes that William is a threat to other tenants or their guests. Prior to kicking Cindy out, the landlord has to give her three days’ notice to send William packing.

California Tenant Law Covers Domestic Violence and More

When talking about California tenant law, domestic violence is just one facet. And, in Alameda County and the rest of California, domestic violence can be perpetrated against a variety of people:

  • Spouse or former spouse
  • Someone who lives in the same household or someone who used to live in the same household
  • A person’s fiancé or fiancée, or former fiancé or fiancée
  • The parent of a person’s child
  • A child
  • A step-child, son/daughter-in-law, grandchild, parent, parent-in-law, stepparent, brother/sister, brother/sister-in-law, stepbrother/sister, grandparent, step-grandparent

California tenant law also protects those who are alleged victims of several other crimes, such as:

Sexual Assault: This includes sexual intercourse with someone – including a spouse – incapable of giving consent, against their will, while they can’t resist because they’re intoxicated, or because they’re unconscious or asleep. It also includes oral sex, anal sex, or sexual penetration with a minor, or under conditions that mirror those of sexual assault via intercourse.

Stalking: Under California Civil Code 1708.7, stalking consists of three elements. The first is that the alleged perpetrator engaged in conduct in order to follow, watch, or harass the other person. The second is that, as a result of the conduct, the other person feared for their safety or the safety of an immediate family member, or that they suffered emotional distress. The third is that the alleged perpetrator either made a credible threat to the other person or violated a restraining order.

Human Trafficking: California’s Penal Code has a straightforward definition of perpetrating the crime of human trafficking, namely, “A person who deprives or violates the personal liberty of another with the intent to obtain forced labor or services.”

Abuse of an Elder or Dependent Adult: California’s Welfare and Institutions Code defines “abuse of an elder or dependent adult” in three different ways. The first is what typically comes to mind: physical abuse, isolation, abandonment, or neglect that causes physical or mental harm. An elder is defined as anyone 65 years of age or older. A dependent adult is someone between the ages of 18 and 64 who has physical or mental limitations that restrict their ability to engage in activities or protect their rights.

Charges of domestic violence or any other crime covered by California tenant law are serious. This is not a battle you want to fight on your own. Tapping into the experience of an Alameda County domestic violence lawyer is the only way you can achieve the best possible outcome for your case.

The Big Picture of Domestic Violence

In California, there are at least a dozen laws that touch on domestic violence. Moreover, it’s not only your spouse that can accuse you of domestic violence – it’s anyone who can be considered an “intimate partner.” Under California’s Penal Code, this includes a former spouse, someone with whom you’re in a serious dating relationship, or someone with whom you’ve had a past serious dating relationship. An intimate partner can also be your current or previous registered domestic partner, your live-in partner or former live-in partner, or the other parent of your child.

But the circle becomes even bigger when California’s Family Code is considered. Then, all of the linked people discussed above – ranging from your child to your mother-in-law to your grandparent – are considered potential victims of domestic violence.

The two criminal charges most often levied in intimate partner domestic abuse cases are domestic battery and corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition. Domestic battery occurs when one partner inflicts force or violence on another. If William grabs Cindy’s shirt, for example, that can be charged as domestic battery – even if Cindy doesn’t have an injury. Domestic battery is a misdemeanor, and a conviction carries a maximum sentence of up to one year in county jail and a fine of up to $2,000.

Corporal injury is when the action results in an injury – even a minor injury. For example, if William grabs Cindy’s arm and leaves a bruise, he can be charged with corporal injury. This type of domestic violence crime can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, making it a “wobbler.” A misdemeanor conviction has a maximum sentence of up to one year in county jail and a fine of up to $6,000. A felony conviction can mean two, three, or four years in state prison and a fine of up to $6,000.

Sexual assault, stalking, and elder or dependent abuse, as discussed above, are also considered forms of domestic violence. But there are several other types of charges that fall under the domestic abuse umbrella, including:

Violence Against Children: Child abuse, child endangerment, and child neglect are three different crimes, all of which are considered domestic violence. Child abuse is inflicting physical punishment or injury on a child, while child endangerment is allowing a child under your care to be harmed, subjected to danger, or subjected to the risk of great bodily harm. Both child abuse and child endangerment are wobblers, meaning they can be charged as either misdemeanors or felonies. Child neglect involves failing to provide basic care – like food, shelter, and medical care – to your child, and is charged as a misdemeanor.

Threatening Your Partner: Under California law, a criminal threat is what it sounds like, namely threatening to commit a crime that will harm another person. It doesn’t matter if the person issuing the threat doesn’t intend to carry it out; they can still face misdemeanor or felony charges.

Trespass: If William threatens Cindy, and then goes to her home or workplace to make good on the threat, William can be charged with either misdemeanor or felony trespass. If he and Cindy live together or work in the same office, though, it’s not considered criminal trespass. If William is charged and convicted of misdemeanor trespass, he can face up to a year in county jail and a fine of up to $2,000. If he is charged and convicted of felony trespass, he can face 16 months, two years, or three years in state prison and a fine of up to $2,000.

Why You Need an Alameda County Domestic Violence Attorney

If you’ve been arrested for domestic violence in Alameda County, chances are you’ll be charged with several related crimes. Under California tenant law, domestic violence charges and convictions can literally impact whether or not you have a roof over your head. Between now and then, though, you need the knowledge and experience of an Oakland domestic violence lawyer. They understand how the Alameda County criminal justice system works, and can do everything within their power to ensure that the charges are dropped.

If that isn’t possible, your Alameda County domestic violence attorney can help mitigate the worst consequences. For example, they can convince the prosecutor to reduce the charges, or to agree to recommend probation instead of jail time. If you are not a U.S. citizen, your Oakland domestic violence lawyer can work to achieve a plea agreement that will avoid deportation and that won’t impact your eligibility for a green card.

Silver Law Firm has the experience you need to navigate domestic violence charges and California tenant law domestic violence consequences. Call today for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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