Who is protected by this housing law? What protections does this law offer?
You may be eligible to end (terminate) your lease without penalty if you (the tenant) are a victim of any of the following or if you are the parent/guardian of a child who is the victim of any of the following:
- sexual assault;
- aggravated sexual assault;
- indecency with a child;
- sexual performance by a child;
- continuous sexual abuse of young child or disabled individual;
- an attempt to commit any of the above acts; or
The sexual assault, sexual abuse, or stalking must have taken place within the past six months either in the home or somewhere on the property (the premises).2
1 TX Property Code § 92.0161(b), (c), (c-1)
2 TX Property Code § 92.0161(c), (c-1)
What steps do I have to take to end (terminate) my lease early?
There are two main steps that you need to take to terminate your lease without being held liable for breaking your lease.
You have to give your landlord, or the landlord’s agent, a copy of one of the following documents:
- a protective order for sexual assault, sexual abuse, indecent assault, stalking, or trafficking that was issued after notice to the abuser. In other words, a temporary ex parte order is not acceptable; or
- documentation of the sexual assault, sexual abuse, stalking, or attempted sexual assault or sexual abuse 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;
- a sexual assault prevention and crisis services professional who provided services to the victim; and
- only for victims of stalking who provide the documentation listed in #2, a law enforcement incident report or similar record is also required. To clarify, this is not required for victims of stalking who give their landlord the protective order listed in #1.1
In addition, at least 30 days before the date on which you intend to end the lease, you must give the landlord written notice that clearly states your plans to terminate the lease and then you must leave (vacate) the home on the day that you indicated.2
1 TX Property Code § 92.0161(c), (c-1)
2 TX Property Code § 92.0161(d)
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.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 certain sexual offenses or stalking.” 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 TX Property Code § 92.0161(e)
2 TX Property Code § 92.0161(g)