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Breaking a Lease in Texas – Know the Laws

As a landlord in Texas, you must be aware of the laws for breaking a lease early, should you ever have a tenant who wants or needs to break their lease agreement. 

There are many reasons a tenant might want to break their lease agreement before the lease expires, from relocating for a new job to getting a divorce or separating from their partner, to serving in the military. Some of these reasons are legal and some are not – landlords need to be well-informed about which is which. 

Under Texas landlord-tenant law, there are steps that a landlord must abide by when handling this issue. In today’s blog, we’ll look at everything a landlord should know regarding tenants breaking a lease or rental agreement in Texas.

Rental Agreements in Texas 

As a landlord, it’s important that you require tenants to sign a lease before moving in. The lease will help outline your expectations as well as protect you and your investment property. 

When drafting a lease agreement, make sure it’s as detailed as possible. To minimize confusion and misunderstandings, these are some of the topics a landlord should consider including:

  • Will the landlord allow the tenant to sublet the property?
  • How much is the rent amount? Is there a grace period for late or unpaid rent? Will the landlord charge a late rent fee? 
  • How much is the security deposit? What are allowable security deposit deductions? 
  • Will a landlord allow pets in the property?

A key in an open door

In addition to these rules, a landlord must also make sure to state the penalties for unjustifiably breaking the lease. 

The landlord should also let the Texas tenant know that they have a responsibility to notify them when looking to terminate their periodic lease. Under Texas law, the written notice needed is dependent on the type of tenancy. 

A week-to-week tenant must serve 7 days’ written notice prior to moving out. A month-to-month tenant must serve 30 days’ advance notice

As most of your tenants likely renew their lease annually, you should state in the lease how much notice must be given. You may consider asking your tenants to provide written notice 30 days prior to ending their annual lease. 

Also, you may want to let tenants know about the landlord’s duty to re-rent the unit to a new tenant. Texas landlords are required to make reasonable efforts to re-rent their units to a new tenant rather than charge their tenants for all rent owed remaining under the lease.

Unjustified Reasons to Break a Lease Early in Texas 

Under Texas law, the following reasons don’t provide a tenant with a legal justification for early termination of their lease. As a result, a tenant doesn’t get legal protection against potential penalties for failing to honor the lease. 

  • Breaking the lease early to buy a house. 
  • Breaking the lease due to a job relocation. 
  • Breaking the lease to upsize or downsize. 
  • Breaking the lease due to a divorce or separation. 
  • Moving out to be closer to friends and family.

Cropped image of four people around a table in an office

If the tenant wants to break their lease early for any of these reasons, the tenant may contact the landlord and see if they can come to a mutual agreement. As a landlord, early lease termination isn’t ideal, but with enough notice, you may consider allowing them to, should you be able to find a replacement tenant quickly.

Justified Reasons to Break a Lease in Texas 

As a landlord, it’s important that you familiarize yourself with the legally justified reasons a tenant can use to break their lease early under Texas law.

1. Active Military Duty

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) gives servicemembers certain rights and obligations when it comes to breaking a lease. A tenant who is an active servicemember has a right to break their lease early without penalty. 

The protection starts from the moment the tenant enters active duty and ends up to ninety days after they are discharged from active military service. The following are some things the tenant must do before breaking their lease in accordance with the act. 

  • Prove that they signed the lease before they entered active military service. 
  • Prove that they intend to serve as an active servicemember for at least 90 days. 
  • Provide the landlord with copies of the deployment letters from their senior officials. 

The tenant’s lease, however, doesn’t terminate immediately. After the tenant notifies the landlord, the earliest the lease can end is 30 days after the next rent cycle. 

Interior of a modern home with a round glass dining table and grey chairs

2. Uninhabitability

A tenant under Texas law can also legally break their lease if the rental unit becomes uninhabitable and the landlord fails to fix to perform maintenance or repairs.

As you probably know, the state requires landlords to maintain their units to certain safety and health codes. As a landlord, you strive to keep the unit in excellent condition for your tenants, performing maintenance and repairs in a timely manner. In doing so, as a landlord, you avoid any risk of the unit being deemed uninhabitable.

3. Landlord Harassment

As a landlord, you want to maintain a good relationship with your Texas tenants, based on mutual respect. However, a landlord should still familiarize themselves with landlord-tenant law when it comes to things like how much notice they must give their tenant before entering the unit they are renting. If a landlord fails to give enough notice before entering the rental unit, it could be considered harassment. 

Two people sitting on a bed with two dogs

4. Other Reasons

In addition to the aforementioned reasons, a tenant may also be able to legally break a lease early if:

  • They are a domestic violence victim.
  • A utility service that the lease obligates the landlord to pay for has been cut off. 
  • The tenant dies before the lease expires.

Bottom Line

Now you know the unjustified and justified reasons for breaking a lease in Texas. If you’re in this situation and need to find a new tenant quickly, or have any questions about residential leases, Real Property Management Talent can help. We provide professional property management solutions to landlords in Temple, TX and the surrounding areas. Get in touch to learn more!

Disclaimer: This blog should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed attorney in your state. Laws change, and this post might not be updated at the time of your reading. Please contact us for any questions you have in regards to this content or any other aspect of your property management needs.

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