There are a plethora of reasons that a tenant may need to end their lease early. However, just because you think you might be doing so for a good reason does not mean you will be free from the consequences that follow. Under Texas law, there are circumstances in which you, the tenant, could still be held responsible for your rental payments even if you move out. At Apartment Locating Specialists, we believe it’s just as important that you understand your rights as a tenant as it is to find the perfect apartment for you in DFW.
I Want to Move Out Early – Can I Do That?
Technically speaking, yes, you can physically move out of your apartment at any time. This does not, however, free you of the lease agreement that you signed with the apartment complex. According to law, you will continue to owe rent as a tenant until the date the lease ends on the contract you signed, or another tenant is found. While it is the landlord’s obligation to secure another tenant, trying to find a tenant to take over your lease may save you money in the long run. While the landlord is searching for a tenant, you will still be responsible for rent owed.
There are certain protections for a tenant that moves out prior to their lease terminating. The Texas Property Code does state that a landlord has a duty to “mitigate damages” to try and keep the amount owed by a former tenant to a minimum. Simply put, a landlord must put forth a good faith effort to locate a new tenant for the apartment. For example, if you move out of your apartment early and the landlord does not even try to find a new tenant, you may not be liable for the rent owed. If the landlord does put forth the effort to locate a tenant, but they failed to do so and your security deposit does not cover the remaining rent owed per your lease, the landlord is likely to send your debt is a tenant to a debt collection agency or even sue you in civil court for rent owed.
Legally Protected Reasons to Break a Lease (Statutory Rights)
The Texas Property Code does allow for a lease to be broken without penalty under a few circumstances. Some of these circumstances involve the tenant’s right to terminate the lease early, while others are the landlord’s right to terminate the lease early.
Tenant With Military Service
If you are a member of the military or become a member of the military while leasing an apartment, there are certain circumstances in which you are able to terminate your lease without penalty. For active duty military personnel, if you become deployed or your duty station changes, simply provide your landlord with a written notice and official documentation that details your military orders. Additionally, if you enter into military service after you sign a lease, you can also terminate your lease early so long as proper procedures are followed.
Family Violence, Sexual Offenses, Stalking, Public Indecency Conviction
Texas law protects survivors of family violence from liability for early termination of a lease. Certain procedures must be followed, like providing proof of the family violence (typically a police report or case number) and 30 days written notice for moving out.
The same is applied for victims of sexual abuse or stalking. Texas law protects these victims from future liability for rent owed if proof of the abuse is provided and a 30 days written notice is given to the landlord. In the case of sexual offenses and victims of stalking, it must have occurred in the previous six months. On the other side, a landlord may terminate a tenant’s lease if the tenant is convicted of any public indecency offense under Chapter 43 of the Texas Penal Code.
In the unfortunate circumstance of the sole tenant passing away, then the estate of the deceased tenant may terminate the lease without penalty. This assumes that the estate has provided documentation to the landlord.
Landlord’s Obligation for Repairs and Smoke Alarms
One of the most common complaints that tenants often have against landlords deals with air conditioning, heating, and plumbing. Under the Texas Property Code, a landlord has the legal obligation to conduct repairs for issues that “affect the physical health or safety of an ordinary tenant”. This commonly occurs with broken air conditioning or heating systems, which can have severe or even fatal consequences in Texas weather. There are many conditions that must be met, however, for the landlord to be held liable for these repairs which can be found in Section 92.056 of the Texas Property Code.
When it comes to smoke alarms, Texas law has strict requirements for landlords to ensure that smoke alarms work properly at the start of a tenant’s lease. This includes installation, inspection, and functionality. If certain conditions for the smoke alarm requirements are not met, the tenant can make a written request to their landlord to install or repair a smoke alarm. However, if the landlord fails to install or repair the smoke alarm, then tenants have a legal right to terminate their lease early.
Reasons Not Protected by Law to Break a Lease
There are also many reasons to terminate a lease early that are not protected under the Texas Property Code. Terminating under these and other reasons will not free you from your obligation to make rental payments according to your lease agreement. Some of these reasons include, but are not limited to:
- Obtaining new employment
- Moving out of county, state, or country
- Financial hardship resulting in the inability to pay rent
- You don’t like your neighbors
Apartment Locating Specialists: Dedicated to Finding You the Perfect Apartment
The Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex is a fantastic place to live, which is evident by its continuous growth. More and more apartment complexes are being constructed all around us, so we know how difficult it can be to find a great apartment to lease that suits your needs and budget. At Apartment Locating Specialists, we are dedicated to helping you find your perfect apartment. We’ve been in the apartment world for decades, and we work with a lot of complexes to get you the best results. Start your search for your perfect apartment today.