Tenant’s Unilateral Right to Terminate a Lease

Tenant’s Unilateral Right to Terminate a Lease

The laws in Texas have been changed in order to protect people who are the victims of violence.  In the past, if you were the victim of domestic violence, you could not break a lease in order to get away from the person who has been violent.  And, if you had been the victim of a sexual assault from a stranger, you could not break your lease in order to move to a safer location.  This lead to great injustice, of course, and finally the law was revised in order to try to protect the victims.  Now, there are two general ways to get out of a lease if you have been the victim of domestic violence (from a spouse, parent, child, or someone with whom you have a dating relationship) or if you have been the victim of a sexual assault.

1.         Termination for Family Violence.

a.         Application. A tenant may terminate the tenant’s obligations under the lease after a court order issues protecting a tenant or occupant from family violence. TEX. PROP. CODE § 92.016(b).

b.         Notification Required. To terminate the lease, a tenant must provide to a landlord:

i.          A copy of the Temporary Injunction issued under Subchapter F, Chapter 6, Family Code, a temporary ex parté Order issued under Chapter 83, Family Code, or, a Protective Order issued under Chapter 85, Family Code; and,

ii.         Written notice of termination of the lease on or before the thirtieth day before the lease terminates.  TEX. PROP. CODE § 92.016(c).

c.         Effective Date:

i.          If Perpetrator is Co-Tenant or Occupant.  If the family violence was committed by a co-tenant or occupant of the dwelling, the thirty day notice is not required and the tenant’s lease obligations end upon the notice.

ii.         Perpetrator is Not Co-Tenant or Occupant. The lease obligations terminate thirty days after the date of the notice. TEX. PROP. CODE § 92.016(c-1).

d.         Pre-Termination Financial Obligations.  The tenant’s liability for delinquent unpaid rent or other sums owed before the lease termination remain the obligation of the tenant. TEX. PROP. CODE § 92.016(d).

e.         Required Lease Provision. If the lease does not have language substantially equivalent to the following:

“Tenants may have special statutory rights to terminate the lease early in certain situations involving family violence or a military deployment or transfer,” a tenant who terminates under TEX. PROP. CODE § 92.016(b) will be released from all liability for any delinquent, unpaid rent as of the effective date of the lease termination. TEX. PROP. CODE § 92.016(f).

f.         Standardized Leases. The TAA and TAR Leases have the language required under TEX. PROP. CODE § 92.016(f).

2.         Termination After Sexual Assault.

a.         Application. Victim of sexual assault or parent or guardian of a victim of sexual assault that occurs on the premises or at any dwelling on the premises. TEX. PROP. CODE. § 92.0161(c).

b.         Notification Required. To terminate the lease and avoid liability, the tenant must:

i.          Deliver to the landlord:

1.         A Statement of the event from a licensed health care or mental health service provider; and,

2.         Written notice of termination on or before the 30th day before the end of the lease term; and,

ii.         Vacate and thirty days has elapsed since the delivery of the written notice of termination.   TEX. PROP. CODE § 92.0161(d).

c.         Effective Date. Thirty days after compliance with TEX. PROP. CODE §92.0161(d), the tenant is released from all liability for any and all financial obligations under the lease arising after the notice. TEX. PROP. CODE §92.0161(d).

d.         Required Lease Provision. If the lease does not have language substantially equivalent to the following:

“Tenants may have special statutory rights to terminate the lease early in certain situations involving sexual assault or sexual abuse,”

A tenant who terminates under TEX. PROP. CODE §92.0161(b) will be released from all liability for any delinquent, unpaid rent as of the effective date of the lease termination. TEX. PROP. CODE § 92.0161(f).

This article is not intended to be legal advice and is not a substitute for legal representation by an attorney.  You are encouraged to seek the advice of Janis Alexander Cross to answer any specific legal questions you may have.

If you need assistance with termination of a lease because of family violence or sexual assault, Janis Alexander Cross will be happy to assist you with the problem.  You can email her through this website or you can call her at 806.322.7777.