(WSVN) - Her abusive partner was arrested after being accused of hitting her with a gun. When she tried to break the lease and move out of the apartment they shared, her landlord told her. Can a victim of domestic violence break a lease? It’s why the call went out to help me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

When Stephanie was a teenager, she met who she thought would be the love of her life.

Stephanie Velez: “He was really nice to me at first, and, you know, he was very, like, treating me like a princess.”

Stephanie and her partner had two beautiful children. What people may not know, their father was abusing their mother.

Stephanie Velez: “He was for like almost five years and I thought he was going to change, but it just eventually, progressively got worse.”

You may have noticed Stephanie doesn’t even have a picture of her with her ex, Rashaad Jenkins. Understandable after the last attack.

Stephanie Velez: “He choked me and I woke up under my work desk and I was unconscious for like almost a minute.”

When she became conscious, Jenkins is accused of being even more brutal.

Stephanie Velez: “He threw me on the bed and he has a firearm and he cocked it back and he was putting it on the back of my neck and he hit me in the back of my head up here.”

Stephanie’s head was busted and bleeding from being hit by the gun. A neighbor heard her screaming and called the police. When they got there, Jenkins had blood on his shirt and told an officer “Yes, it’s my girlfriend’s blood.” They confiscated the loaded weapon he allegedly hit Stephanie with. She went to the hospital. He went to jail and Stephanie made a decision—it was time to get away from him.

Stephanie Velez: “I can’t keep getting abused for so long, especially in the presence of the two girls.”

She asked her apartment manager to be let out of the lease she and Jenkins shared. They said no.

Stephanie Velez: “You know, they said, at the end of the day, you have to pay what you have to pay. Honestly, I wanted to cry because it’s not like I did it on purpose or I wanted this to happen.”

Scared to death, Stephanie moved out anyway and went to stay with family and the property manager verbally came after her.

Stephanie Velez: “They took the security deposit for the rent that I had to pay, which is fine, but they’re charging me another $2,676 for breaking the lease.”

Common sense says get away Stephanie, but does the law allow her to break the lease without a penalty? Howard.

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “Unfortunately no. The law does not protect domestic violence victims regarding a lease. Some states do allow a victim to early terminate a lease without penalty, but Florida does not help victims in that regard.”

We spoke to the apartment manager.

To us, they were wonderful. They said they would not go after Stephanie for the $2,600 in rent payments and even though they didn’t have to return the security deposit, they gave Stephanie the $1,625.

Stephanie Velez: “I didn’t even think they’re going to return it. So it’s very good that they’re doing that. With your help, of course.”

She also tried to make her break from Jenkins official.

Stephanie Velez: “I have a five-year restraining order on him, and I have full custody of the kids.”

She will always be looking over her shoulder for her ex but at least now she can move forward and try to put her life back together.

Stephanie Velez: “Yes, I definitely am. I’m very grateful and appreciative for what you guys did for me.”

Nice to be able to help you, Stephanie. Be safe and it’s stunning that the Florida legislature didn’t want to help victims of domestic violence avoid getting hammered on a lease like some other states did. Maybe they will in the future.

Facing a situation you wanna end? Take a break and contact us to see if we can help you flee the problem.

With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.

Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
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