Breaking your Lease Early if you experienced Domestic Violence

If you live in DC and have experienced domestic violence, you may have the right to end your lease early. Your landlord isn’t allowed to charge you money or keep your security deposit because you are ending your lease early.

End your lease early by taking three steps:

Step 1: Report the domestic violence you suffered to a professional. Ask them for a signed document showing you made the report.

You can report to: (1) a health professional, like a doctor or nurse; (2) a trained domestic violence counselor; (3) a police officer; or (4) a safety officer from the DC Housing Authority.

Step 2: Download the attached file, go to the second page and fill out the attached letter.

This letter tells your landlord that you are breaking your lease. It makes sure they know they can’t withhold your security deposit just because they are unhappy. You just need to add some basic information for you (the tenant) and your landlord.

Step 3: Send your landlord the letter and a document showing you reported the domestic violence.

You can email it, mail it, or give it to them in person. Note: Make a copy. Do not give away the original confirmation that you reported domestic violence.

Step 4: Once you have a safe address, tell your landlord a safe address to send your security deposit.

How long do I have to work on this? DC laws give you 90 days (about 3 months) from the incident you are reporting to tell your landlord that you are ending your lease early.

If your landlord tries to charge you money or keep your security deposit, they might be breaking the law. If you have questions about what your landlord is doing, call Legal Aid at (202)-628- 1161 or go to

If you don’t have a protective order and want to get one, call DC SAFE at (844) 443-5732 or the D.C. Court Domestic Violence Division Clerk’s office at (202) 879-0157.