Breaking a Lease in Texas: 2024 Guide for Tenants & Landlords

Breaking a lease in Texas can have serious implications for everyone involved.

If you’re a tenant or a landlord thinking about prematurely terminating a rental agreement but need to know more about potential consequences and legalities, you’re in the right place.

To help assist you, we’ve thoroughly reviewed Texas landlord-tenant laws, combed through pages upon pages of legal documents, and neatly organized all the answers you seek.

Keep reading for the following information:

  • Legal reasons to break a lease in Texas
  • Breaking a lease without legal justification
  • Penalties for breaking a lease
  • Landlord and tenant rights and responsibilities
  • Legal help for landlords and tenants
  • How to prevent broken leases with software
  • Other frequently asked questions

Before All Else, Analyze the Lease in Question

Before you make any snap decisions regarding breaking a lease, set aside 15 minutes, pull out your rental contract, and re-read it carefully. Brushing up on your agreement before taking action could give you some legal clarity and help you determine what to do next.

If you’ve signed a week-to-week or month-to-month lease, opting out of your agreement is often as simple as giving your landlord a seven- or 30-day move-out notice.

But, if you’ve agreed to a lease with a set-in-stone end date, navigating your way out of it will likely be a bit trickier. These long-term, traditional leases create firm expectations regarding how long a tenant is expected to occupy a property to protect both tenants and landlords from sudden move-outs.

Legal Reasons for Breaking a Lease in Texas

According to Texas’s landlord-tenant laws, certain circumstances allow tenants or landlords to void leases without fear of legal consequences. Here they are:

Military Service

When someone joins the military, they have a legal duty to serve, meaning they must relocate when called to action by their commanding officer, and they will face legal consequences if they choose not to.

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) is a federal law that states that if active military personnel are called to duty and must vacate their residence for 180 days or longer, they can terminate their rental contract without legal consequence.

Family Violence

If a tenant is experiencing violence at the hands of a family member, they’re within legal bounds to terminate their lease early. According to Texas law, they must provide their landlord with documentation of the violence and give them a 30-day move-out notice.

Texas Property Code does not state that the victim must provide a police report, so proper documentation doesn’t need to be issued by law enforcement. That said, if you’re a victim of domestic violence, call the police immediately, document your experience in detail, and notify your landlord if you need to end your rental contract.

Sexual Offenses or Stalking Victims

“Victims of recent sexual abuse or stalking and their parents or guardians can end a lease early,” according to Texas Property Code. “Early,” in this case, means within the last six months.

This law allows tenants a legal chance to relocate if they no longer feel safe in their current living situation due to their proximity to the offender. To legally end their lease, tenants must provide their landlord with proper documentation and a 30-day move-out notice.

If you’re the victim of a sexual offense or stalking and feel unsafe in your current living situation, contact law enforcement, document the incidents thoroughly, and notify your landlord if you must break your lease to relocate to a safer living arrangement.

Tenant’s Death

Though perhaps a bit morbid, if a tenant dies in Texas, their representative is legally allowed to break their lease on their behalf.

This law protects a tenant’s assets after their death and prevents landlords from attempting to collect missed rent payments and/or early termination fees from their estate.

Per legal protocols, a deceased tenant’s representative must provide a landlord with written notice to terminate their client’s lease.

Landlord’s Failure to Repair

If a tenant’s physical health or safety is at risk due to a problem with their property and the landlord doesn’t act upon their request for repairs or maintenance, the tenant “may be able to end their lease early.”

Additionally, a landlord’s failure to install, inspect, or repair a smoke alarm is also legal grounds for a tenant to exit a rental agreement.

If a landlord doesn’t fix an issue within seven days after a repair, maintenance, or smoke alarm request, tenants have the right to end their lease without going through the court system.

Visit the Texas State Law Library’s ‘Repairs’ page for more details on requesting a repair from your landlord.

Landlord’s Failure to Disclose Management Information

Though it may seem odd, a tenant can break their lease without going to court if their landlord refuses to provide “correct and up-to-date information about who owns and manages the property.”

In such a case, a tenant must provide their landlord with a written request to access management information. If a landlord doesn’t deliver the requested information within seven days, they can end the lease without recourse.

Tenant Violates the Lease Agreement

If a tenant significantly violates a lease agreement (non-payment of rent, destruction of property, illegal activity, etc.), they make themselves vulnerable to eviction from their landlord. The landlord cannot evict them in Texas, however, without first following these steps:

  • Provide notice of violation
  • Give the tenant a fair opportunity to remedy the issue
  • Issue a notice to vacate (if a tenant doesn’t fix the issue)
  • File an eviction lawsuit with the Texas courts (if the tenant doesn’t vacate)

Clause in the Rental Agreement

Remember when we encouraged you to re-read your rental agreement before all else? One reason is that some Texas landlords generate leases with clauses that allow the renter to terminate their contract under certain conditions. Here are a few examples:

  • Tenant must break a lease due to job relocation
  • Natural disasters force tenant to vacate their rental
  • Civil unrest forces a tenant to vacate their rental

In these cases, exiting a lease agreement could be as simple as exercising a clause in your rental contract.

Breaking a Lease without Legal Justification (Tenants)

If a job relocation is forcing you to relocate, you’ve experienced a death in your family, or you’re simply ready to move on, you probably don’t have legal justification to break your lease. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that you still have options:

Option #1Try negotiating an amicable exit with your landlord. Get them on the phone, explain your situation, and see if they’d be willing to let you exit the lease earlier than contracted. Landlords are human; if your excuse is good enough, they might just let you off the hook.

Option #2Find a landlord-approved subletter willing to take over your lease and finish it out for you. (Texas property owners aren’t required to allow or approve subletters, so refer to your rental contract to see if this is an option.)

Breaking a Lease without Legal Justification (Landlords)

If you’re a landlord who wants to break a lease and remove a tenant without properly evicting them, you likely don’t have the legal grounds to do so.

Instead, consider one of the following options:

Option #1Try negotiating an amicable exit with your tenant. Contact your tenant and explain why you need them to leave the property early. Consider offering to help them find a new place or paying for moving expenses to sweeten the deal.

Option #2Offer your tenant an early lease termination settlement. If you can’t come to an exit agreement during negotiations with your tenant, consider offering them a reasonable sum if they agree to terminate the lease early and move out.

Legal Note: If you attempt a self-help eviction without following Texas’ eviction protocols, you are breaking the law and could be subject to legal action from your tenant.

What are the Penalties for Tenants Breaking a Lease in Texas?

If your landlord won’t negotiate with you, a subletter isn’t an option, and you still must break your lease, be prepared to deal with the potential consequences:

  • Loss of security deposit: Landlords often cover missed rent by deducting it from a tenant’s security deposit.
  • Owed rent and/or fees: Landlords may ask tenants to pay for unpaid rent and/or fees exceeding the total security deposit amount.
  • Negative rental references: Renters who break leases may receive negative references from landlords, making it more challenging to secure future rentals.
  • Legal action: If landlords are unable to collect money from tenants, they might sue them to recover losses or unpaid rent.

Landlord/Tenant Rights and Responsibilities

According to Texas State Law, both landlords and tenants are afforded certain rights and responsibilities by the government. Here are a few:

Landlord Rights

  • Collect rent on time
  • Charge early termination fees for broken leases
  • Sue for damages and losses caused by tenant, including future unpaid rent

Landlord Responsibilities

  • Provide a copy of the lease agreement upon request
  • Communicate with the tenant and maintain the property
  • Make efforts to re-rent if a tenant vacates the property

Tenant Rights

  • Access the lease agreement upon request
  • Terminate the lease agreement for legally-supported reasons
  • Find a landlord-approved subletter (if allowed in the rental contract)

Tenant Responsibilities

  • Pay rent to the landlord on time
  • Communicate with the landlord and maintain the property
  • Abide by early termination consequences as outlined in the lease

Visit the Texas State Law Library’s website for more information on landlords’ and tenants’ rights and responsibilities.

Legal Help for Landlords and Tenants

If you’re a landlord or tenant who needs legal help, check out our write-up of Texas Landlord-Tenant Law for a list of helpful resources and advice on how to proceed.

The following websites also might be of help:

Preventing Broken Leases with TurboTenant

If you’re a landlord who’s worried about tenants potentially breaking leases, our free and easy-to-use software can help you:

Sign up for a free TurboTenant account today to learn how else we can enhance your rental property management experience.

Breaking a Lease in Texas FAQs

How much does it cost to break a lease in Texas?

There is no pre-determined cost to breaking a lease in Texas. Refer to the lease in question for more information regarding early termination fees and collection of future rent payments should the unit sit vacant.

Does breaking a lease hurt your credit in Texas?

Not directly. However, unpaid debt due to a broken lease or an eviction on your record will likely hurt your credit score.

Can I break my lease because of rats in Texas?

Probably. If a rat problem makes your residence uninhabitable and your landlord doesn’t take the necessary measures to fix the infestation, you have legal grounds to break your lease. As always, be sure to document the issue in detail. 

How long does a broken lease stay on your record in Texas?

There is no database for tracking broken leases in Texas, so broken leases will never end up on your record. However, evictions stay on your record; avoid them at all costs.

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