Breaking a lease in TX?
UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022
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Breaking a lease in TX?
Myself and my children moved into a home about 4 months ago. My children are biracial and we have been constantly harassed since moving into this house. At the community pool my children have been told you don’t belong here, someone rang our doorbell saying he didn’t appreciate us living on his street and it would be best for us to move. Since then when we go away on weekends and come home there’s trash littered throughout the lawn, our HOA is constantly being called saying we’re having loud parties and loud music coming from our house meanwhile we’ve never had one guest over. The harassment has just gotten too much and I no longer want to live here. When I spoke to the property manager he offered a buyout where I could pay 4 months rent and then we would be able to get out of
our lease. My rent is $4000 a month so that kind of money I just don’t have laying around. Isn’t there some type of law to protect us from this? Do we have to live out our lease in this miserable existence?
Asked on July 25, 2017 under Real Estate Law, Texas
SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney
Answered 5 years ago | Contributor
IF you can show the property manager or the unit owner (assuming they are not one and the same) is causing or even allowing this wrongful, hateful behavior, you could very likely break your lease without penalty: landlords owe their tenants "quiet enjoyment," or the right to use their rental property without undue disruption, and are also prohibited by law from discriminating on racial grounds. So if the landlord, property manager, or unit owner is him-, her-, themselves involved, you can likely escape the lease and may even be able to bring a legal complaint or action for housing discrimination to get compensation, too. If this is the case, contact HUD about the discrimination and/or speak with a landlord-tenant or civil-rights lawyer about possibly suing.
However, where you may have a problem is that a landlord, etc. is only liable for things under his or her control. If the landlord, etc. is not harassing you, and the people who are harassing you are not this landlord's tenants, the landlord (or property manager, etc.) is not responsible for their behavior, and the acts do not provide a legal basis to get out of your lease.
(If some of them are his tenants, however, and he refuses to take steps to try to rein them in, that could provide enough of a connection to you to allow you to break the lease; in this case, the landlord is not taking steps, such as threatening or bringing eviction actons against the other tenants for their "disorderly conduct," to secure you the quiet enjoyment to which you are entitled.)
The above said, HUD tends to be aggressive about bringing actions based on housing discrimination. Even if the people harassing your family are not connected to, under the control of, etc. your landlord, you might tell the property manager that if you are not allowed out without penalty, you will file a housing complaint with HUD for racial discrimination in housing: it may be that the property manager or landlord will choose to let you out of the lease rather than deal with HUD, since even if the landlord/property manager were to ultimately win because their fault could not be proven, a HUD investigaton can be distracting, time-consuming, and expensive to deal with; the threat of HUD may give you leverage.
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