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Legal Information: Texas

Texas Housing Laws

Housing Laws

Early lease termination for victims of domestic violence

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 who is living in your home with the landlord’s consent is a victim of family violence, you may be eligible to terminate your lease without penalty.1 To terminate your lease, you must meet all of the following criteria:

  1. you have one of the following:
    1. a temporary or permanent family violence protective order (explained here);
    2. a temporary injunction, issued as part of divorce proceeding that meets the terms of TX Family Code § 6.501;
    3. a magistrate’s order of emergency protection issued after the abuser was arrested for an offense involving family violence, sexual assault, stalking, or trafficking;
    4. documentation of family violence against you (the tenant) or an occupant from any of the following people:
      • a licensed health care services provider who examined the victim;
      • a licensed mental health services provider who examined or evaluated the victim; or
      • an advocate who assisted the victim;
  2. you must give the landlord a copy of one of the above-mentioned orders or documentation;
  3. at least 30 days before the date on which you intend to end the lease, you must give the landlord written notice in which you state your plans to terminate the lease; and
  4. you vacate (leave) the apartment or home on the day that you indicated in step # 3.2

If the abuser is a co-tenant or occupant of your residence, you do not have to give the landlord 30 days’ advance notice of your lease termination. Instead, you can terminate your lease by completing steps #1 and #2, above, and you must vacate (leave) the apartment or home.3

1 Tex. Property Code § 92.016(a)(2)
2 Tex. Property Code § 92.016(b), (b-1), (c)
3 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?

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.1

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.2

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.

1 Tex. Property Code § 92.016(d)
2 Tex. Property Code § 92.016(f)

Protection from retaliation for calling 911

What protections does this law provide?

According to this law, your landlord cannot keep you from calling 911 or from getting other emergency assistance as long as you are calling for help that you actually need. Your call has to be based on your “reasonable belief” that you or someone else is in need of emergency help. Also, the landlord cannot limit the amount of times that law enforcement can be called to your residence, or charge you with any fines or penalties.1

Even if the landlord had language in your lease about not calling 911 or the police for help, it would be considered void and unenforceable. In other words, the landlord cannot say that you “agreed” to those terms just because you signed a lease where limitations or penalties were included – you can ignore that part of your lease.2

1 TXProperty Code § 92.015(a)(1), (a)(2)
2 TXProperty Code § 92.015(b)

What can I do if the landlord breaks the law?

If a landlord disobeys the law, you (the tenant) can take the landlord to court. In court, the judge can order that you get the following:

  • a civil penalty in an amount equal to one month’s rent;
  • any actual damages that you suffered as a result of the landlord breaking the law - for example, let’s say you stayed in a hotel because the landlord told you that you had to get out, you could sue for your hotel bill;
  • court costs;
  • an order that tells the landlord to do something or not do something, known as injunctive relief - for example, the judge can order that the landlord stop sending you letters to vacate the home every time you call 911; and
  • reimbursement for attorney’s fees that you spent due to having to take the landlord to court due to his/her violation of this law.1

1 TXProperty Code § 92.015(c)