Ending your lease (termination)

You should always give notice if you want to terminate your lease (even if it’s the end of your lease period).

Almost all written leases say that at the expiration date, the lease is automatically renewed on a month-to-month basis unless one of the parties terminates the lease.  Occasionally, the lease may provide for renewal for the same lease term as the original term, but that is the exception rather than the rule. Your lease will say how far in advance you have to give notice that you do not want to renew your lease. It’s usually 30 or 60 days before the expiration date. Below is a form Notice of intent not to renew lease that you can fill out and give to your landlord.

If you’re on a month-to-month lease, you usually have to give one month’s notice before you can stop paying rent. Unless the lease says otherwise, the notice can provide for termination on any day of the month, as long as the date of termination is at least one month from the date of the notice. If permitted by the lease and the notice terminates the tenancy on a day which does not correspond to the end of the month or the beginning of a rent paying period, the tenant need only pay for rent up to the date of termination. However, if rent is paid more than once a month, it is sufficient to give a termination notice only equal to the interval between rental payments. For example, if you pay your rent weekly, you or your landlord need give only one week’s notice in writing in order to terminate the tenancy.

Both landlord and tenant can decide not to let the lease renew for any reason, unless the landlord illegally retaliates or discriminates.

Notice of intent not to renew lease (form letter here)
My landlord sent me a termination notice. What are my rights?

If it’s the end of the lease period or you’re month-to-month:

  • You should get at least 30 days notice (unless you’re paying week-to-week, and then you’ll only need a seven-day notice).
  • You should move out by the date of termination. If you don’t, the landlord can evict you and that can make it hard to rent for years to come. 
  • The landlord cannot discriminate or retaliate. If you think that’s why they’re terminating your lease, you can sue them. See those pages on this website for more information. 

If you broke the lease:

A landlord may try to terminate if you don’t pay rent on time, violate the rules, or break the lease in other ways. 

Even if the landlord terminates the lease (or your rights to possession), you have the right to dispute the landlord’s decision and stay in your house or apartment. If you do not move, the landlord will be required to file an eviction lawsuit, and a judge or jury will decide whether the landlord has the right to terminate the lease. The landlord cannot physically remove you from the premises unless an eviction suit has been properly filed and a judgment has been issued against you. See Eviction for more information.

I think the landlord is discriminating or retaliating.

A landlord may not terminate a lease or non-renew the lease for retaliatory reasons (see Retaliation) or for discriminatory reasons. (see Discrimination). If a landlord illegally retaliates against you or discriminates against you, you have a clear right to sue for wrongful eviction, actual damages, attorney’s fees, statutory penalties and other damages. The Fair Housing Act allows a tenant to sue a landlord for damages for illegal discrimination. 

If you live in public housing, federally subsidized housing, or housing financed with Low Income Housing Tax Credits, you have additional protections.

A tenant living in public housing, federally subsidized housing, or housing financed with Low Income Housing Tax Credits has an additional protection concerning a lease renewal. The landlord must have good cause to terminate or non-renew the lease. This generally means that the tenant must have committed one or more serious lease violations or many minor lease violations.

What can I do if I want to end the lease before the lease is over?

If there is an issue with the apartment or house that is making it hard for you to live there, you may be able to legally move out early. Look on this website for the specific issue you are having by entering it in the search box or clicking on the topic on the sidebar (e.g., repairs). If you are moving and not for a permissible reason that allows for early termination, you should try to negotiate with the landlord. You should review the lease to see what it says about a reletting charge for moving early. If you have signed the Texas Apartment Association form lease, paragraph 10 of that lease should set forth the amount of the reletting charge for early termination.

Some landlords will let you pay one month’s rent and forfeit the deposit to get out of the lease early, but you should try to negotiate a deal that fits your needs. If you make a deal with your landlord, get the agreement (referred to legally as a release) in writing, signed, and dated by both of you, to prove you are no longer responsible under the lease.

Even if you don’t make an agreement, you should give the landlord notice that you will be moving out. If you let them know in advance, they may be able to find another tenant to replace you more quickly after you move. Texas law requires landlords to attempt to locate another tenant to take over your lease (called a duty to mitigate). You can also find someone else to rent your place to reduce your liability as long as the landlord approves them.

What are the consequences for terminating the lease early without excuse?

If you don’t have a legal excuse for terminating early, you will be responsible for paying the rest of the rental payments until the lease term ends or until the date the landlord leases the unit to another tenant. If the lease provides for a reletting charge, the landlord may also charge you the reletting fee set forth in the lease.  And, you may also be charged for damages to the property in excess of normal wear and use.  If a tenant moves out early, and the tenant’s deposit is too small to cover these charges, landlords sometimes pursue other actions to collect the funds, and usually make reports to credit agencies if collection efforts prove unsuccessful.

If you want to terminate early, you should try to work something out with your landlord. If you make a deal, get the agreement (referred to legally as a release) in writing to prove you are no longer responsible under the lease.

You should at least give the landlord notice that you will be moving out. If you let them know, they may be able to find another tenant to replace you more quickly after you move. Texas law requires landlords to attempt to locate another tenant to take over your lease (called a duty to mitigate). You can also find someone else to rent your place to reduce your liability as long as the landlord approves them.

The landlord could charge you a fee for leasing the home to the next tenant if you leave before the end of the lease term, if the lease provides for such a fee.

Some landlords will charge a “reletting fee” for having to prepare the dwelling for reletting to another tenant. Reletting fees are authorized in the standard Texas Apartment Association (TAA) form lease. The reletting fee must be a fair amount to cover actual expenses for getting a new tenant and cannot be unfairly inflated. TAA usually sets this fee at 85 percent of a month’s rent. 

What happens to my lease if the landlord changes?

If the landlord sells, dies or transfers the property, the new owner has to honor your lease and any other agreement you made with the original owner or management, unless the lease agreement specifically states that the lease will terminate in such case. This is another reason to always have important agreements in writing, signed and dated.

If the property is foreclosed, the federal law called Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act requires that the new owner honor the remaining term of the lease and give the tenant a 90 day notice to vacate before filing an eviction. If the buyer at the foreclosure sale intends to use the property as a personal residence, then these protections do not apply.