If there is a written lease, it may say how far in advance a tenant needs to notify the landlord before they can move out of the apartment. Texas law does not say how much notice must be given to a landlord if the lease is not a month-to-month lease. The amount of notice will depend on the terms of the agreement between the landlord and the tenant.
According to Section 91.001 of the Texas Property Code, a month-to-month lease may be ended by either the tenant or the landlord. Once they notify the other party, the tenancy ends on whichever of the following is later:
If the tenancy ends on a day that does not align with the rent-paying period, like in the middle of a week or month, the tenant is only responsible for paying rent up to that point.
A different length of notice is required if both landlord and tenant have signed a statement agreeing to different terms. This could include no notice at all.
If a tenant wants to move out early and break their lease for a reason other than one listed in the "Statutory Rights to Terminate a Lease" box below, they continue to owe the landlord rent under the lease. They only stop owing rent once the lease ends or a new tenant is found.
Section 91.006 of the Texas Property Code describes a "landlord's duty to mitigate damages." This means that a landlord must try to find a new tenant and help reduce the amount of rent the former tenant owes under the lease. A condition of a lease that says that a landlord does not have duty to mitigate damages is void under this law.
A landlord must use "objectively reasonable efforts" to find a replacement tenant that is "suitable under the circumstances." They are not required to just take "any willing tenant." (Austin Hill County Realty, Inc. v. Palisades Plaza, Inc., 948 S.W.2d 293).
Sometimes a landlord can't find a new tenant or the security deposit does not cover the rent that the tenant owed. In these cases, the landlord may send the tenant's debt to collections or sue them over the unpaid rent. Actions like these can make it more difficult to rent in the future. A tenant should be very careful when making a decision to end a lease early.
Texas statutes do not specifically mention "reletting fees." However, courts have generally found that landlords can charge "reasonable" fees to relet a property. The Tenants' Rights Handbook [PDF] from the Texas Young Lawyers Association and the State Bar explains:
However, landlords can charge you a reasonable “reletting fee” for having to prepare the dwelling for reletting and having to redo paperwork. The reletting fee must be a fair amount to cover actual expenses and cannot be unfairly inflated (you cannot be “penalized” for breaking a lease).
The lease may set out the exact amounts of fees a landlord can charge when the lease is ended early.
Texas law gives the landlord or the tenant the explicit right to end a lease early in a few specific circumstances:
Section 92.017 of the Texas Property Code gives servicemembers the right to end a lease early if they are deployed or permanently restationed. A deployment must last for 90 days or more to qualify under this law. It also applies to dependents of servicemembers and people who sign a lease and then enter military service.
To end their lease, the servicemember must give the landlord written notice and documentation of their military orders. The effective date of the termination varies depending on the circumstances. Please read the section for complete details.
A survivor of family violence as defined by Section 71.004 of the Texas Family Code can terminate their lease early. Under Section 92.016 of the Texas Property Code, they would not be responsible for future rent or fees related to breaking the lease. They must give the landlord documentation of the family violence and 30 days' written notice to move out. They must then move out of the rental. For complete details on the requirements to be protected under this law, please read the complete section.
Victims of recent sexual abuse or stalking and their parents or guardians can end a lease early. The abuse the victim survived must be listed in Section 92.0161 of the Texas Property Code. It must have occurred in the previous 6 months. To end the lease early, the victim or their parent/guardian must give the landlord documentation of the offense and 30 days' written notice to move out. They must then move out of the rental. For complete details of the offenses covered by this law and the requirements for protection, please read Section 92.0161 of the Texas Property Code.
If a tenant who was the sole occupant of a rental dies during their lease, a representative of their estate can end their lease early. The representative must provide written notice to the landlord under Section 92.0162 of the Texas Property Code. For complete details of what must happen to terminate a lease under this law, please read the section in its entirety.
If a tenant has asked their landlord to make repairs to a problem that "materially affects the physical health or safety of an ordinary tenant" using the procedures in Section 92.056 of the Texas Property Code and the landlord didn't do so, they may be able to end their lease early. For more information on a tenant's rights under Texas's "duty to repair" law, please see the "Repairs" page of this guide.
The situations listed above are the only ones where Texas law allows someone to end a lease early without consequences. Sometimes people need to break a lease for other reasons. These reasons could include getting a new job, moving out of state, or not being able to afford rent. Breaking a lease in these situations is not protected by law. For all situations other than the ones listed above, please see the "Ending a Lease Early" box above and read your lease agreement.