This Note addresses the legal recourse of domestic violence victims who are attempting to terminate a lease early for the purpose of escaping domestic violence at home. In March 2013, President Barack Obama signed the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). This version of the Act includes Title VI, which protects victims of domestic violence and stalking. Title VI applies to federally subsidized housing. It allows domestic violence victims to terminate a lease early for the purpose of removing themselves from an abusive household. Title VI also makes it illegal to deny or terminate housing assistance based on an individual’s status as a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking. Even with federal legislation in place, domestic violence victims in nearly half of the United States cannot terminate leases early for the purpose of escaping abuse because their leases are private and therefore not subject to the federal law. In response to this barrier, some states are enacting laws that allow victims to terminate their private leases early. The various state statutes are inconsistent with one another, however. Therefore, some statutes protect victims more thoroughly than others. The inconsistencies may confuse individuals about what protections various statutes actually offer. This Note includes a model universal statute that addresses gaps in victim protection and clarifies which rights victimized tenants should have.



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