If there is a written lease, it may say how much notice a tenant needs to give the landlord before they can move out of the apartment. As Texas law does not say how much notice must be given to a landlord if the lease is not a month-to-month lease, it 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 coincide 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 (or no notice at all) is required if both landlord and tenant have signed a statement agreeing to different terms.
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 until a new tenant can be found.
Section 91.006 of the Texas Property Code describes a "landlord's duty to mitigate damages," which 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).
If a landlord can't find a new tenant or the security deposit does not cover the rent that the tenant owed, 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, so 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 that can be charged 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 very specific circumstances:
A servicemember or the dependent of a servicemember who is deployed for 90 days or more or who receives orders of a permanent change in station may terminate their lease early under Section 92.017 of the Texas Property Code . Someone who signs a lease and then enters military service can also end their lease early under this law. 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, so please read the section for complete details.
If a tenant or occupant is the survivor of family violence as defined by Section 71.004 of the Texas Family Code, they can terminate their lease early without liability by providing documentation of the family violence and 30 days' written notice to move out to the landlord. They must then move out of the rental. For complete details on the requirements to be protected under this law, please read Section 92.016 of the Texas Property Code.
If a tenant is the victim of or the parent or guardian of a victim of specific crimes related to sexual abuse or stalking that occurred within the previous 6 months, they can terminate their lease early by providing documentation of the offense and 30 days' written notice to move out to the landlord. They must then move out of the rental. For complete details of the offenses covered by this law and the requirements to be protected, please read Section 92.0161 of the Texas Property Code.
If the tenant dies during their lease, a representative of their estate can provide written notice to the landlord under Section 92.0162 of the Texas Property Code to end responsibility for future rent under the lease. 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 specifically gives a landlord or tenant the right to end the lease early without consequences. Breaking a lease for other reasons like getting a new job, moving out of state for non-military reasons, not being able to afford rent, etc., 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.