Terminating or Breaking Your Lease in Texas
There are very limited circumstances when a Texas lease may be terminated by a tenant without penalty. Often times when the tenant wishes to terminate their lease contract for acceptable reasons, they must still jump through hoops to avoid being penalized. There are really only two reasons a tenant may terminate their lease effective immediately and without penalty, the first of which is a delay of occupancy.
In some cases a tenant may wish to sign their lease in advance of moving in. This may be for reasons of convenience such as moving from another state and wishing to secure the apartment while in town, or perhaps due to a lack of immediately available funds to place a holding deposit on a unit. In these circumstances, most communities will allow for a lease to be signed now, but start on a future date. Occasionally, this may lead to a delay of occupancy. This may happen due to natural catastrophic events such as fire or flood, or if the community was unable to get the apartment ready in time due to maintenance issues, a back log of work orders, or other property related issues. When this happens the lease stipulates that one may terminate a signed contract within 72 hours of being notified of the delay of occupancy, in writing, and without penalty. If this is the case, any deposit collected must be returned by check within thirty days of cancellation.
Sometimes a tenant may wish to terminate their lease contract due to the inaction of the community to correct maintenance, pest, and mold issues. When this occurs it is absolutely possible to terminate your contract without penalty, but slightly more difficult. Many people fail to follow the necessary steps and simply tell the office they are leaving. This constitutes a broken lease for which the tenant is completely financially responsible. Should a Texas resident need to terminate their contract because of a lack of response to complete work orders they must follow their lease in doing so. A standard Texas lease will require the tenant to first put the work order in writing and give the rental company reasonable time to complete the work. If they fail to complete the work as requested the tenant is required to make a second request in writing and again give reasonable time for the work to be completed. If by that point there is still no action, the tenant may immediately terminate the rental contract in writing. In this circumstance a thirty-day notice is not required. It is important to be aware that this may only be executed if the tenant does not owe the community any rent or other bills for which they are liable.
If a resident is not happy with their apartment due to noise, crime, or personal issues like health, change of marital status, illness, or changes in employment or education, they are not provided a way out of their rental contract in Texas. Many leases, however, will allow a tenant to vacate provided they find a suitable replacement for the apartment. The replacement tenant must apply with and be approved by the leasing office prior to move in. In this circumstance the original tenant's security deposit would transfer to the replacement tenant. This is due to the replacement tenant taking the apartment "as is." Beyond the transfer of the security deposit, there would be no further penalty to the vacating resident. As far as vacating for personal reasons, this is by far the most desirable way to accomplish getting out of a lease.
Some communities may also offer an Early Termination Agreement. This typically requires the resident to give, and pay through, a thirty-day notice. Prior to move out, the tenant would also be required to pay a sum equal to two months rent. This option is certainly expensive, but much less expensive than breaking a lease outright. Also, it will not damage rental or credit history.
The final way to terminate a rental contract is for military reasons as outlined by the U.S. Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. This allows for military personnel and their dependants to terminate their lease with a thirty-day notice for reasons of ETS, PCS, or deployment. Many lease in Texas do not contain a specific clause covering this topic, however, whether the lease contains the clause or not the service member and his or her dependants are still entitled to vacate. More information regarding termination for military orders can be found by reading the U.S. Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.
Rental laws vary greatly from state to state. Some states seem to favor the tenant while others seem to favor the landlord. The information contained within this article is specific to the state of Texas. Please check the rental laws in the state in which you reside for questions pertaining to tenancy. In Texas, leases certainly favor the landlord more so than the tenant. Tenant rights are weak in Texas and the leases in this state are ironclad. You should always read your lease carefully and be sure to ask any questions you might have before signing it.