In Texas, a victim of family violence can terminate his/her lease early without penalty. If the victim is an occupant in the home, and not the tenant on the lease, the tenant may still be able to terminate the lease early. In this section, we have some basic information about this housing law.
Who is protected by this housing law? What protections does this law offer?
If you (the tenant) are a victim of family violence (as defined by law), or if an occupant in your home is a victim of family violence, you may be eligible to terminate your lease without penalty. Note: The occupant must be living in your home with the landlord's consent.* To terminate your lease, you must meet all of the following criteria:
- you have a temporary or permanent family violence protective order (explained here) or you have a temporary injunction, issued as part of divorce proceeding that meets the terms of TX Family Code § 6.501;
- you must give the landlord a copy of one of the above-mentioned orders;
- you must give the landlord written notice, in which you state your plans to terminate the lease, at least 30 days before the date on which you intend to end the lease; and
- you vacate (leave) the apartment or home on the day that you indicated in step # 3.**
If the abuser is a co-tenant or occupant of your residence, you do not have to give the landlord 30 days advanced notice of your lease termination. Instead, you can terminate your lease by completing all of the following steps:
- you must have a permanent family violence protective order (not a temporary ex parte order), as explained here, or you have a temporary injunction issued as part of a divorce proceeding that meets the terms of TX Family Code § 6.501;
- you must give the landlord a copy of one of the orders mentioned above in step # 1; and
- you must vacate (leave) the apartment or home.***
* Tex. Property Code § 92.016(a)(2)
** Tex. Property Code § 92.016(b),(c)
*** Tex. Property Code § 92.016(c-1)
Do I still have to pay any rent that I owed to the landlord before I terminated my lease?
Most likely, yes. Even if you terminate your lease, you will still have to pay the landlord any unpaid rent or other money that you already owed to the landlord before the lease was terminated, including rent for the month that you will be living there after you give the 30 days notice of termination. You will not have to pay rent for the months that would have been left on the lease after you leave the apartment or dwelling, assuming that you properly followed all of the steps outlined in the prior question.*
However, one thing to note is that according to the law, all leases must have language that says something like this: "Tenants may have special statutory rights to terminate the lease early in certain situations involving family violence or a military deployment or transfer." If your lease does not have language like that, then the law states that you are not even responsible for any unpaid rent that you owed to your landlord before you ended your lease.**
If you are unsure whether or not you owe rent, you may want to talk to a lawyer who is familiar with these laws. Go to our TX Finding a Lawyer page for lawyer referrals.
* Tex. Property Code § 92.016(d)
** Tex. Property Code § 92.016(f)