As a Texas landlord, you’re bound by the rules and regulations under Chapter 92 of Texas Property Codes. Among them are those regarding a tenant’s rights and obligations when it comes to breaking the previously agreed upon lease.
In today’s article, we at McCourt Real Estate Property Management will go over everything you need to know about how and when your tenant could legally and illegally break their lease early.
Defining a Lease Agreement in Texas
A lease agreement is a legally binding document between a landlord and a tenant. It lays out the expectations of those parties so it’s important that you make it as detailed yet concise as possible to avoid confusion and any misunderstandings in the future.
The following are important terms that the lease agreement must include.
- Penalties for breaking the lease unjustifiably, this can include eviction. Let your tenant know what they would be liable for if they choose to break the lease agreement for unjustifiable reasons.
- Your tenant’s rights when it comes to breaking the lease. Let them know what scenarios would allow them to break their lease early without penalty.
- The amount of notice a tenant must give you in order to end their periodic lease agreement. In Texas, both parties must serve the other a 7-day advance notice prior to ending a week-to-week notice. To end a month-to-month tenancy, either party must serve the other 30-day advance notice. Tenants on a fixed-term lease don’t have to provide any advance notice.
- Your responsibility to re-rent the unit. Under Texas law, landlords have a responsibility to re-rent their rental unit. In other words, you cannot simply wait until the lease expires and then charge the tenant for the total remaining rent due under the lease.
- Your tenant’s right to sublet the unit. Texas law makes unauthorized subletting illegal. If your tenant wishes to sublet their unit, they must first seek your approval. As the landlord, you reserve the right to either approve or reject their request.
Unjustified Reasons to Break a Lease in Texas
The following reasons don’t offer enough justification to release a tenant from their contractual lease obligations under Texas law.
- Breaking the lease agreement to live with someone else.
- Breaking the lease early to move closer to work or home.
- Breaking the lease agreement after a separation or divorce.
- Breaking the lease early to downsize or upsize.
Breaking the lease agreement for any of the aforementioned reasons often attracts heavy financial or legal repercussions for your tenant. In the absence of legal justification, the best way to break a lease would be to seek for them mutual termination from you.
Justified Reasons to Break a Lease in Texas
Some reasons offer tenants enough legal protection from penalties for breaking their lease early. According to Texas law, the following are the legally justified reasons for early lease termination.
Active Military Duty
If your tenant is an active service member and has been relocated, they are protected from penalties by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). The protection begins from the moment they enter active military duty to between 30 and 90 days after getting discharged.
Before terminating their lease agreement though, a tenant must fulfill certain obligations. Including, providing their landlord written notice of their intention to leave early due to a deployment or change of station. They must also provide you with a letter from their commanding officer stating their pending deployment.
Once the tenant delivers the landlord written notice, the lease will end 30 days after the next rent cycle as per the SCRA.
Texas law defines a servicemember as one who belongs to the armed forces, activated National Guard, commissioned corps of the Public Health Service, and the commissioned corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Habitability Issues in the Unit
Keeping your property habitable is key to the success of your real estate investment. So, you will always want to make sure that your property has:
- Hot and cold running water.
- Windows and doors that are secure.
- Working smoke alarms in all bedrooms.
- Adequate number of trash receptacles.
- A pest-free dwelling.
In addition, you’ll also want to respond to maintenance requests within a reasonable period of time.
Harassment by the Landlord
As a landlord, you also know that respecting the privacy of your tenant is of the utmost importance. You don’t want to barge in unannounced, as that would mean violating their right to peace and quiet.
Texas landlord-tenant law requires that landlords provide their tenants with notice prior to entering rented premises. While it doesn’t specify the exact amount, a 24-hours’ advance notice often suffices with most tenants.
Case of Domestic Violence
Texas law provides domestic violence victims with certain special provisions for their protection. If your tenant becomes a domestic violence victim, they may be able to break their lease early.
But before the tenant can do so, you can ask them to provide proof of their status. You may require that they provide you a copy of a temporary injunction, a protective order, a temporary ex parte order, or an order of emergency protection.
Death of a Tenant
As per Texas law, the death of a tenant is also a legally justified reason for early lease termination. A representative of the dead tenant may terminate the lease early if the tenant was the sole occupant of the unit.
If you have agreed to provide your tenant with utility services and they are cut off due to nonpayment, the tenant can break their lease early. The security deposit can be used to assist with this.
So, there is everything you need to know when it comes to a tenant breaking their lease early. If you have any more questions on this aspect of Texas law, McCourt Real Estate & Property Management can help.
McCourt Real Estate & Property Management is a leading property management company in Midland. Get in touch to learn how we can help you succeed!
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 regard to this content or any other aspect of your property management needs.