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Breaking or terminating a lease agreement early can be a headache to the landlord. Regardless of the reasons, generally, the lease holds the tenant liable for the remaining rent until the lease agreement expires. This is called the blanket rule. In some cases, Texas Tenant/Landlord Law may legally allow tenants, or even the landlord, to break a lease early without penalties.

The following are the instances when tenant may be able to legally move out from the property without any liability or landlord may legally remove tenant from the property: 

The lease agreement specifies early termination clause

Since a lease is a contract, both parties may negotiate on the terms and conditions that allow a tenant to terminate their lease early. However, landlords may subject the tenant to a minimal penalty which usually amounts to two-month rent.

Both parties mutually agree to break lease agreement early.

Either the landlord or tenant may ask the other party to break the lease early. And when such a request is accepted, the tenant may be able to move out without paying penalties. It is important that said agreement is entered voluntarily and freely by both parties. To protect their both interests, it must be reduced into writing and affixed by parties’ signatures.  

Tenant suffers damage due to flood for failure by landlord to inform him that the property is in 100-year floodplain

A 100-year floodplain refers to any area of the land designated as a flood hazard with 1% or greater chance of flooding each year by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Landlords are required to disclose that the property is located in flood prone area and/or the property is known to have been damaged at least once during the 5-year period before the lease. Landlords are not required to disclose it if the property is elevated. If the landlord fails to inform the tenant and the latter suffers substantial loss or damage to his/her personal property as a result of flooding, the tenant may terminate the lease by giving a 30-day notice to the landlord. 

The tenant is a survivor of family violence.

This ground is allowed to be raised when one member of the household commits physical harm or reasonably places another in fear of imminent physical harm. In this case, the victim of family violence has the right to break the lease and leave early after providing the landlord proof of circumstances. Tenants’ have the right to file a policy report, seek emergency assistance because of family violence. Landlords cannot evict tenants or threaten to evict victim tenants for domestic violence, abuse, or sexual assault. Tenants who are victims of such offenses may terminate the lease without obligations for future rent or termination fees. This tenant must provide a protective order or temporary injunction signed by the judge against the aggressor (co-tenant) of the property in order to terminate the lease without future liability of rent payments. Lease agreement should contain your right as a tenant to early termination for domestic violence. Tenants are responsible for rent before the lease terminates. If a landlord does not let tenant terminate the lease under these conditions, she/he may be liable to tenant  for one month’s rent, plus $500 and attorney’s fees

The tenant or parent thereof is a victim of sexual abuse or stalking 

A survivor or the parent or guardian of the victim of a sexual abuse of a minor or stalking which happened within the past 6 months on the premises or at any dwelling on the premises can legally end a lease early. He/she just needs to provide the landlord with documentation of the abuse from licensed health care services and licensed mental health services who examined or evaluated the victim and/or law enforcement incident report,  or protective order signed by the judge.

The tenant dies.

When the tenant who lives alone in the rented property dies, the representative of his/her estate can terminate the lease agreement early. The representative must provide a 30-day notice to the landlord. Keep in mind that a tenant's death does not absolve him/her or the estate of the delinquent, unpaid rent and damages to the leased property not caused by normal conditions. 

The tenant is deployed or permanently reassigned for military service.

When a tenant is deployed or permanently reassigned for military service, he/she has the right to end the lease. Under Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), the following are considered “uniformed members:” 

  • Armed services

  • Activated National Guard

  • Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service

  • Commissioned Corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

To terminate the lease agreement, the tenant must meet the following conditions:

  • Tenant joins the military after signing the lease agreement or signed the lease agreement while in the military then ordered to permanently change location or deploy for more than 90 days;

  • Tenant provides landlord written notice; and

  • Tenant provides landlord copy of the military ordering him/her for a permanent change of station or deployment for a period of 90 days or more.

Landlord fails to perform its duties

  1. Failure to do repairs

Texas law mandates residential landlords to make a diligent effort in repairing property problems that materially affect the physical health or safety of an ordinary tenant. Common problems are sewage backups, mold, infestations of rats, and other pests, faulty wiring, roof leaks and it violates the city’s building, health and fire code poses health and safety risk. 

In this case, the tenant must notify the landlord of the problem and give the landlord reasonable time to fix it. It is important that the problem must not be caused by the tenant or one of their friends, family or guests and the tenant must have diligently paid the rent. The general rule is that if a tenant has breached the contract or is in default of payment, the landlord is not obligated to remedy. 

If an incident occurred not caused by the tenant and the property is as practical matter totally unusable for residential purposes, the tenant may terminate the lease by giving notice to the landlord before repairs are completed.

  1. Failure to install, inspect or repair smoke alarm

Texas law requires the landlord to install, inspect and repair smoke alarms prior to or at the beginning of the tenant’s lease. If no smoke alarm has been installed, the tenant can notify the landlord with a written notice to do so. Failure to act on the said request and if the landlord will not provide funds for such repayment, one of the remedies provided to the tenant is to legally end the lease early. 

  1. Failure to disclose management information

A tenant has a right to know who owns and manages the property. When such information is not available, he/she can request in writing of the said information. 

Other grounds

  • Landlord violates tenant’s privacy rights;

  • Landlord wrongfully cuts off water, wastewater, gas or electric service; and

  • Landlord wrongfully changes the locks or prevents tenant from being in the rental property.

In all of these cases, it is important to read your lease agreement and negotiate any terms and conditions accordingly. Breaking the lease without the legal justification may subject the tenant to payment of the remaining rental fees, damages and cleaning fee and other costs indicated in the lease agreement. Nonetheless, breaking a lease agreement before its expiry is an issue that needs to be handled properly so as to avoid any liability and inconvenience.


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