Landlords and tenants enter lease agreements with the intention that tenants will stay until the end of the contract. However, in some cases, leases are broken due to unexpected life events or from one party being unaware of all the lease terms.
Lease agreements bind the renter with the responsibility of paying a fixed amount of rent for a certain period of time. Texas has laws in place that aim to protect the landlord and also ensure the rights of the renters are safeguarded.
In this article, we will explore the major points related to breaking a lease in Texas. After reading this, you will understand the rights and responsibilities regarding lease breaks.
What are the justified reasons for breaking a lease?
Renters may legally break a lease in Texas in certain scenarios. The following are some examples:
Violation of Health or Safety Codes
When the landlord violates Texas Health or Safety Codes, the tenant is considered to be “constructively evicted.” In the case of serious habitability issues, the renter has no obligation to continue paying the rent.
However, the violation needs to be serious enough. For example, toxic mold growth and lack of heating or hot water give enough basis to break the lease. Nevertheless, the renter has to give the landlord reasonable time to fix the issues.
Sexual assault or stalking
Victims of sexual assault or stalking can break the lease under the Texas Property Code. There are conditions that the renter has to meet before having legal grounds to step out of the lease.
Harassment or privacy violations
Tenants in Texas have the right to privacy. Landlords are to refrain from any actions that could be considered harassment. Both privacy violations and harassment give a tenant the right to break the lease.
It is important to note that Texas has no state regulations on notice of entry for the landlords. In many states, the period of notice ranges between 24 and 48 hours. Regular entry without any purpose could be interpreted as a serious violation of privacy.
Harassment entails a variety of actions on the part of the landlord that affect the renter’s sense of security and well-being:
- Turning off the utilities
- Removing windows or doors
- Changing the locks without any notice
Active military duty
Tenants signed for active duty in the USAF are allowed to break their lease agreement. There are two requirements the renter has to fulfill for this:
- The tenant has to be part of the uniformed services:
- The Armed Forces
- Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service
- The activated National Guard
- Commissioned Corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- The tenant has to provide written notice of at least thirty days to the landlord.
What is a transfer clause?
Not all lease agreements come with a transfer clause. However, if there is one, tenants can end the lease early without breaking the agreement. The requirement is a move that results from a work transfer. This clause may require the payment of any reletting expenses.
The landlord’s duty to find a new tenant
Texas landlords have the duty to mitigate damages by seeking a replacement renter. This signifies that even if breaking the lease was unjustified, the tenant could still end up paying a small amount of the remaining rent.
Nonetheless, the re-renting means the landlord does not have to settle for anything lower than the fair market price. The need to mitigate damages allows the landlord to conduct proper screening and sign a lease with only a qualified tenant.
There is always the possibility that the landlord fails to re-rent the unit. In this case, when breaking the lease is legally unjustified, the tenant has to pay all the remaining rent.
In Texas, the landlord could ask the tenant to reimburse certain expenses. For example, these costs may include rental marketing and screening new prospective tenants.
What are the typical ways tenants break leases?
There are numerous ways tenants can break lease terms that have no legal basis:
- Subletting the rental unit without permission
- Failure to ask for approval of installing new locks and security systems
- Giving false information about obtaining the renter’s insurance
- Moving out of the rental property before the lease ends
Can landlords ask for specific penalties?
Texas landlords are not able to ask for the payment of specific penalties. They can only hold the tenants liable for the expenses resulting from ending the lease early. There are many possible costs associated with the process of finding a qualified new tenant.
Not all landlords penalize their tenants after a break in the lease. Sometimes there are complicated situations that do not fit under the legally justified scenarios. In these cases, proactive tenants who help to find a suitable new renter could find a compromise with the landlord.
The bottom line: breaking a lease in Texas
Lease agreements regulate the relationship between tenants and landlords. Both sides enter the contract with the expectation of following the agreed timeline. However, unexpected life events can happen, which sometimes results in breaking the lease.
Tenants have some legally justified reasons for breaking the lease:
– Active military duty
– Health and Safety Code violations
– Privacy violations
– Sexual assaults
Any of these situations frees the tenant from any financial and legal responsibilities.
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