Both tenants and landlords are constrained by leases. A landlord generally cannot raise the rent or force a tenant to move out before the lease ends unless the tenant materially breached the lease in some way (for example, they fail to pay rent). Tenants, unless extraordinary circumstances exist, are generally legally bound to pay rent for the full lease term, whether or not the space is occupied. Issues arise when a tenant has to cut short his use of the leased premises prior to the lease’s term.
When You Can Break a Lease in Texas
In Texas, you may be able to legally move out (with no associated damages) before the lease term ends in the following situations:
- You are starting active military duty
- You are a victim of stalking or sexual assault
- The rental violates Texas Health or Safety Codes (there’s a “constructive eviction”)
- Your landlord violates your privacy rights or harasses you.
Breaching a Lease in Texas
Even if a tenant does not have legal justification to break a lease as described above, the tenant still may be able to avoid paying all the rent due for the remaining lease term. Texas law mandates that landlords use reasonable measures to mitigate damages and keep their losses to a minimum. In Texas, a landlord must make reasonable efforts to re-lease the tenant’s space rather than charge the tenant for the total remaining rent due under the lease.
In many cases, a tenant may not have to pay much, if any, additional rent. A tenant is required to pay only the amount of rent the landlord loses because of their early exit. If a landlord does try to re-lease the property in a reasonable time frame, he should subtract the rent received from new tenants from the amount the tenant owes.
How to Minimize the Cost When Breaking a Lease
If you need to leave your rental early and you do not have a legal way out of the lease, there is a lot you can do to limit the amount of money you may ultimately owe your landlord and help ensure future good references when you are looking for your next place to live. You should provide as much notice as possible and communicate with your landlord, letting them know why you need to leave early. You may even be able to provide your landlord a new tenant – someone with good credit and excellent references – to help minimize or eliminate your damages.
Contact our Austin Attorneys
If you need legal assistance when breaking a lease, please contact Shaw Cowart LLP using the form on this page or call 512-499-8900 today to schedule a consultation. We serve clients in the Austin, Texas area.