Breaking a Lease to be Safe - Texas Law

Circumstances Change ThingsThere are some circumstances where concern for our safety may seem to conflict with our legal/financial obligations. Are there provisions in the Property Code that recognize and assist us in such situations?'

Here's one in Texas that both Tenants and Landlords ought to keep in mind.

Section 92.0161 - The Right to Vacate and Avoid Liability Following Certain Sex Offenses.

Avoid the Creep? Take, for example, a young woman who has been stalked by some unsavory, creepy neighborhood perp. She fears for her life and wants to move completely out of town. Yet, she has a lease that doesn’t end for another four months. Should she continue to live in her condo, despite her fears, until her lease ends or should she immediately relocate and face the legal consequences later? Will the law be on her side if she decides it is best to leave or will insult be added to injury when the landlord penalizes her for breaking the terms of the lease? If there are laws in place to protect her, what steps must she take in order to be safe and legally terminate her lease early?

What if there has been a sexual assault or abuse, but the victim is a child? Do the parents have any legal recourse when it comes to breaking their lease in order to relocate their child to a safer neighborhood?

An Amended Law in Texas Effective January 1, 2014, an amendment to the Texas Property Code, became law. Section 92.0161 “Right to Vacate and Avoid Liability Following Certain Sex Offenses or Stalking”, expanded the right to break a lease to a larger number of sexual assault and abuse victims and/or victims of an attempted assault or abuse.

The law allows victims of assault, abuse, or stalking to terminate their lease early in order to distance themselves from potential harm. Because in some cases the victim is not an adult tenant, but the child of a tenant, the statute also permits a parent to break their lease in order to remove their child from danger.

Important Details

  • The incident in question must have occurred on the premises within the last six months.
  • Specific documents must be provided to the landlord.
  • If the victim is a child, the relocating tenant-parent must reside with the child.

Whereas the law previously specified ‘certain situations involving sexual assault or sexual abuse’, the amendment of this law now reads, ‘in certain situations involving certain sexual offenses or stalking’. Since the law now includes ‘stalking’, the phrase ‘or attempted assault or abuse’ has been added to the wording within this law.

Be sure to read the this law in its entirety for the details.

(As with all our articles, this is meant to bring an issue to the attention of the reader. It is not, of course, meant to be legal advice - which is not our expertise. If the above post appears to address your situation, be sure to get appropriate legal counsel.)