How to legally break a lease
First off a lease agreement is a binding contract between two parties which is enforceable by law. The Texas Property Code protects the tenants and the landlords, but most of the landlord’s protection is in the lease agreement. I know most people do not read them but you really should because you might need to break a lease. If you don’t read it when you sign it, you should carve out a little time to go over it later. You need to know what is in there because you may have to exercise one of those clauses later. Below I have included the ways to break a lease legally without penalty or cost. We are talking about a contract so they are neither easy nor quick.
Communication with your landlord is vital with any lease. Explaining your situation to them and keeping an open line of communication with them will make the following methods much easier. In any event the law states you must do your due diligence in providing written proof in the event you need to break a lease.
Two main methods to legally break a lease
…under the Texas Property Code Title 8.
- A lease that has expired or is within the notice period of expiring can be terminated by either the tenant or the landlord with a written notice to the other party. (How most leases are terminated)
- The tenant and landlord have agreed in an instrument(agreed in writing) signed by both parties on a different period of notice to terminate or no notice.
This is when you pay a non-refundable fee usually anywhere from 1 to 2 month’s rent to be able to terminate the lease without reason. Make sure you have everything in writing to protect yourself from collections or other issues. There is still a notice to vacate required here and rent will be owed for that time period, and make sure you leave the property in spotless condition.
DID YOU KNOW??? Be careful to read the reletting clause in your agreement, because in some cases if they do not find a tenant to lease your unit you could be responsible for the rent still.
Not all properties allow this, but if you read your rental agreement then there should be a subletting clause. If they do allow it then you can find a viable candidate to apply and take over the lease. They will need to go into the office with you, and the new tenant will need to go through the same application process. No reletting fee is needed most of the time, and this is the ideal way to get out of a lease early.
Legal reasons to leave the unit
By law a tenant is legally allowed to leave a lease if one of the following issues is taking place:
- Family violence, sexual offense, or stalking
- Military deployment or transfer
- Landlord has breached the contract e.g. failure to maintain the property
But!!! There is more to it. You cannot just pick up your things and leave the lease. That is a guaranteed way to have a collection on your credit and a broken lease or eviction placed on your rental history. It costs the landlord a considerable amount of money to re-lease a unit to another tenant, and you had better believe they will do what they can to either get that money or minimize their costs. I have provided the property code sections with these to help your case with the property. Also here is a link to the property code: http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/PR/htm/PR.92.htm
Family violence, Sexual offenses, or Stalking: Texas Property Code Title 8, Chapter 92, Subchapter A, Sec. 92.016 and 92.0161
There will be a police report needed if not multiple occurrences of the police to be called out to the property. Go in and speak with the manager and explain your situation about how your safety is of great concern. Without a police report you will have a difficult time getting the manager to agree to you leaving your lease, but in the case they do, you will need to have the manager’s agreement in writing to protect you.
Military deployment or transfer: Texas Property Code Title 8, Chapter 92, Subchapter A, Sec. 92.017
Take your deployment or transfer papers into the manager and explain to them the situation. Do not wait until the day you are leaving if you can help it. The sooner you go in to tell them the sooner they can prepare to re-lease the unit which helps your situation. Make sure you have everything documented and in writing. If you just have a conversation with the manager then send them an email detailing the conversation and make sure they agree that they are terminating the lease without penalty and have accepted your notice.
Landlord has breached the contract Texas Property Code Title 8, Chapter 92, Subchapter B, Sec. 92.052
This one is extremely difficult to get through without costing some money. That is why it is really important to make sure you are leasing with a good management company. However, assuming you are already in the lease, you will need pictures and document every call, email, and/or form of communication with the landlord. After it has been determined that the home is no longer livable and you have given them every opportunity to remedy the issue, then you need to contact the management company directly. It is best to speak with the regional manager if possible and show them the evidence of your issues. Finally, if they agree to terminate the lease, then make sure everything is in writing to protect your interests later. However, if they do not agree then you will need to go to small claims court and have a judge terminate the lease.
Please keep in mind that you are under a contract with the landlord and it should not be taken lightly. You will not be fully released from the contract without fulfillment of the lease terms, or written agreement by both parties regardless of the situation you may be in. The Texas Property Code also states that the burden of proof is on the tenant (Title 8 Chapter 92 Subchapter B Sec. 92.053). Which means you have to have the proof that you are legally allowed to break a lease.
To a judge both parties have rights, and they will rule on what they view as fair for both parties. The lease agreements are most often made by the landlords, and they protect them considerably better than they protect you. The landlord can be granted on top of the debt accrued: filing fees, vacancy rent, lawyer fees, interest, and much more in the event the tenant decides to break a lease agreement, or in other words breaches the contract.
DID YOU KNOW??? In Texas a landlord can file a garnishment in the event of an eviction or judgement and can freeze all of your assets until the amount has been paid. Simply put they can empty your bank account for you!
Please, by all means protect yourself… No one else is looking out for your interest better than you.