Virginia Poverty Law Center

Rights of Domestic Violence Survivors

If domestic or sexual violence affects your living situation, there are a few narrow protections for you in the law.

You should contact Legal Aid to see if an attorney can advise you about your specific situation. You may also want to call the statewide domestic and sexual violence hotline at 800-838-8238 for more resources.

I want to stay, but I'm not on the lease

If you’re not on the lease and you get a final protective order against someone living with you, the law says you can apply to become a tenant at the property.

  1. Get a final protective order from the court that says the abuser can't live at the property anymore.

  2. Give a copy of the order to your landlord and submit a rental application within 10 days of getting the order.

  3. Your landlord can accept or deny your application.

  4. If your landlord accepts, you can start a new lease. If they deny it, they have to tell you in writing. You have 30 days from the day of your landlord’s written notice to move out.

Note: If you do not give your landlord a copy of the protective order within 10 days of getting it, you have to move out within 30 days of getting the order.

I want to stay, and I’m already on the lease

If you’re on the lease as a tenant or an authorized occupant, a final protective order can make you the only tenant.

  1. Get a final protective order from the court that says the abuser can't live at the property anymore.

  2. Give a copy of the order to your landlord.

  3. Your landlord should change the locks, or let you have them changed.

You become the only tenant. You are responsible for rent and any costs for changing the locks. Your landlord is not allowed to give the abuser a new set of keys to the property.

I want to end my lease and leave

If you experience family abuse, sexual abuse, or sexual assault at home, you can only end the lease if:

  • You have a final protective order from the court, OR

  • The court has found someone guilty of sexual assault or family abuse against you.

You must give your landlord a copy of the protective order or conviction order and a letter saying what day you want to end the lease. The earliest you can end your lease is 30 days after your next rent payment is due.

For example, you pay rent on the 1st of each month. If you give your landlord a notice on May 10th, the earliest you can end the lease is July 1st.

I live in public or subsidized housing

Residents of public or subsidized housing have extra protections. They are part of the Violence Against Women Act, but you don’t need to be a woman to get these protections.

If you are a survivor of domestic or sexual violence, you may be able to get your abuser removed from the lease and keep your subsidy. The law may protect you against being evicted for things related to the abuse, like disturbances or calls to the police.

Learn more about these protections and contact Legal Aid for advice about your specific situation. 


More resources

Text with a domestic or sexual violence advocate at 804-793-9999

Call the domestic or sexual violence hotline at 800-838-8238

Visit WomensLaw.org for information on the Violence Against Women Act.