Texas tenant rights regarding roaches and other problems are spelled out in Texas Property Code, Chapter 92. These provisions cover all the reasons tenants can legally break a lease, but the sections are more complicated than their titles appear. Before they abandon a rental property, renters should research all the laws that apply.
How Can I Legally Break My Lease in Texas?
Many leases include an early termination clause. Others don’t, but that doesn’t mean a landlord won’t allow it. A landlord might allow breaking a lease in Texas to buy a house or move closer to family during a crisis, especially if she gets along with the tenants.
Early termination agreements typically require a renter to give 30 days’ notice and pay a penalty equal to two months’ rent. Terms can differ from landlord to landlord, but renters are almost always better off negotiating an early out.
Texas renters can legally break a lease in other situations as well. For instance, tenants can terminate a lease early and avoid liability when tenants are displaced because of:
- Military service;
- Domestic violence;
- Landlord harassment or privacy violations; or
- Unsafe living conditions.
Each of those provisions has exceptions, however, so it’s important for tenants to seek qualified legal advice before attempting to end a lease early.
Texas Doesn’t Allow Early Termination in Every Situation
Some states have more generous renters’ rights than Texas. Tenants used to laws in other states might be surprised and dismayed to discover that a violation of their rental agreement doesn’t allow them to break their lease. For instance, Texas law doesn’t allow a tenant to leave early if her landlord violates the terms of the lease or if the terms violate state law.
Certain rental arrangements are also exempt from the rules. Owner-occupied properties of no more than five units are sometimes treated differently from a legal perspective. However, tenants in these situations may have more leeway when breaking a lease in Texas to buy a house, relocate for work, or other reasons.
Early Termination Relies on Tenant Responsibilities
Rental agreements obligate landlords and tenants to fulfill certain responsibilities. Landlords must provide clean, safe housing, but tenants must keep the property in good condition. For that reason, Texas tenant rights regarding roaches don’t allow for early lease termination if renters introduced the roaches to the property or encouraged the problem through improper housekeeping.
Tenants also have a legal responsibility to file the appropriate paperwork in the appropriate way. If breaking a lease at the end of a term agreement, no notice is required. The same is not true for month-to-month, week-to-week or early terminations.
What Happens If You Move Out Early Anyway?
Tenants sometimes face situations that mean they must move right away. Maybe they can no longer afford the payments, or perhaps work or family demands mean they must relocate. What’s the worst that can happen? A landlord can:
- keep the rental deposit;
- give the tenant a bad housing reference;
- sue the tenant for unpaid rent and relevant cleaning and repairs;
- turn a court judgment over to a collection service; or
- use a court judgment to place a lien on certain assets.
A judgment will have a serious impact on a renter’s credit score. Judgments initially stay on an individual’s report for up to 10 years, but in Texas, they can be renewed indefinitely until the debt is paid. Many landlords who run a credit check will deny an applicant who has one. Collections stay on a credit report for up to seven years and also have a negative impact.
Texas Responsibility to Re-rent and Subletting Laws
In addition to a responsibility to make certain repairs, landlords in Texas have another obligation that often comes into play during early termination disputes. Property owners are required to make reasonable attempts to find a new renter as soon as possible in an attempt to limit the obligations of a tenant who leaves early.
In some states, a tenant who breaks a lease six months early gets billed for those six months no matter what. Texas law limits that obligation to the number of months a unit is empty and holds the landlord responsible to try to fill the vacancy quickly. Texas law also allows renters to sublet their units, but a lease might require landlord approval first.
- TravisCountyTx.gov: Collecting Your Judgment
- Heston Law Firm: How Long Can a Judgment Stay On My Credit Report?
- iPropertyManagement.com: Breaking a Lease in Texas 
- Texas Property Code: Chapter 92 Residential Tenancies
- TexasLawHelp.org: Right to Repairs as a Tenant
- Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation: Know Your Rights as a Tenant
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