A lease is supposed to be a commitment to renting a single-family home for a set amount of time. You get the peace of mind of knowing you have a set monthly rent to pay for a certain period of time, and the property owner enjoys residential real estate income for that same time.
Exiting a lease early usually has consequences, but there might also be times you wonder how can I break my lease without penalty? Some situations actually let you do this legally.
The information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available are for general informational purposes only.
Consequences of Illegally Breaking a Lease
The potential consequences of breaking a lease are serious and varied, possibly including several different scenarios you might wind up facing.
- Fees: Breaking a lease can possibly mean losing your security deposit. In fact, you might lose all of it.
- Lawsuit: Your landlord might come after you in court in an attempt to recoup their financial losses mounted by you breaking a lease.
- Credit Score Hit: Your creditworthiness might suffer a negative impact from breaking a lease that makes it harder to borrow money or get good interest rates on loans.
- Remaining Rent: Even if you no longer live in the home that you leased, you might be responsible for the remaining rent payments.
Legal Reasons to Break a Lease in Texas
While there are obviously potential repercussions to breaking a lease, you can avoid them if you know how to break a lease legally. If you have a legally justifiable reason for breaking a lease, you can avoid the consequences if you provide sufficient notice. You might also need to provide proof to substantiate the legal justification if it is requested of you.
Can you break a lease because of domestic violence? The answer to this is yes. However, it's not as simple as just being a victim of domestic violence and then moving out when you want. Certain steps must be adhered to.
- As a tenant, you must provide your landlord with written notice of your intention to break the lease due to domestic violence.
- A judge signs a protective order such as a restraining order or temporary order.
- You give your landlord the warning and proof of status documentation 30 days before you intend to break the lease.
- You vacate the property before the date you intend.
- You pay the lease until the break date.
Unit Is Uninhabitable
You might consider breaking the lease due to uninhabitable conditions. Your landlord has certain responsibilities that must be honored at all times.
- The physical safety of tenants must always be provided for, including access to hot water, one working bathroom, HVAC, a roof, etc.
- Hot water must always be available at a minimum of 120F.
Always notify your landlord of issues in writing or through your tenant portal. They should respond promptly. Also, consider the severity of conditions that don't go repaired. A broken microwave is not a legally justifiable reason to break the lease, but no HVAC certainly is. There is, however, a time requirement, and in order to justify breaking the lease, the landlord has to have not made any attempt to rectify this issue.
To break a lease this way legally, you have to provide a second notice to your landlord. You also have to be current on rent.
One of several reasons to break a lease legally includes military service. The applicable Texas law here is the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act or SCRA. Active members of the military who are ordered to relocate or deploy for at least 90 days can break their lease without legal repercussion under a set list of criteria.
- You must show that you signed the lease prior to being informed of your deployment or relocation orders.
- You must demonstrate that you intend to stay on active duty for at least the next 90 days in uniform.
- Provide written notice of your intention to move out, along with a copy of your deployment orders.
This protection also applies to spouses and family members who are dependents of the servicemember in question. The lease is usually able to be broken within 30 days of the notice. As such, rent would still be due for any new month starting within that 30-day period.
Landlords may not withhold security deposits from servicemembers in retaliation for this being brought to their attention.
One of the many reasons to break a lease in Texas legally can be privacy violations. Your rental agreement entitles you to the right to quiet and privacy. Even though someone else technically owns the property, they don't get to just come in whenever they want to. There are rules about this that they must adhere to.
- Landlords must typically provide adequate notice before entering your home. Many states stipulate 24 hours of advance notice, but the state of Texas doesn't state this formally.
- Landlords are usually allowed to enter without warning in cases of emergencies where people or property might be in danger.
- With notice, landlords can come in for repairs, inspections, and touring the property.
Early Termination Clause
In competitive markets, tenants might enjoy an early termination of lease clause that lets them break their lease before it is supposed to be over. However, that doesn't mean they'll walk away totally free of consequence. There might not be normal legal penalties, but there can be stipulations, such as paying two months of rent plus 30 days of notice provided to the landlord.
Certain early termination clauses might also restrict the reasons this clause can be applied. Job relocation can be one of them if an employer requires a professional to report to a new location. Simply starting employment with a new company might also trigger this. Alternatively, job loss can be an equally valid reason if a renter is no longer able to afford the home they are renting given their drop in income.
Family matters can also come into play. If you go through a divorce, that can impact how much you can afford to rent. Caring for a loved one in your family might also mean you need to be somewhere else.
Unjustified Reasons to End a Lease Early in Texas
There might be many reasons why you ask the question “can I get out of my lease early?”. Some of them are justified, as listed above, but some are not legally justifiable.
- Moving in with a partner is not an acceptable reason to break your lease.
- Buying a home you own does not count.
- Upgrading or downsizing are not legally acceptable reasons.
- Moving closer to your family is usually not an acceptable reason either.
Some states have acceptable reasons for lease termination that don't apply to most of Texas, including landlord lease violations, illegal contract status, health issues, and mandatory disclosures.
Tenant’s Right to Sublet in Texas
Subleasing in Texas can be technically possible, but only if the lease agreement doesn't have language forbidding it. It's usually a bit of a gray area where a landlord might have the right to refuse specific subletters. As a tenant, you might need to do several things to let your landlord know that you intend to sublet and inform them who you intend to sublet.
- Any information you send should be done by certified letter, as courts may accept nothing else.
- Your reason for moving out or subletting in Texas.
- The proposed sublet term.
- The name of the intended subletter.
- Your address during the subletting term.
- The permanent address of the person who is subletting.
Breaking a lease for any reason is a serious matter. When done right, you can use many legal justifications to do it appropriately. However, if done wrong, you can face many legal consequences for ending your lease early.
If you're a property owner confused about any of this, then turn to property management professionals who can handle things for you with tenants. If you have any questions, then feel free to ask us. We'll be happy to answer any concerns you have and let you know what specific services we have that might help you.