Before we delve deep into this topic, it’s essential to make clear that this post is not a substitute for legal advice. If you or someone you know is dealing with family violence or has questions about terminating a lease due to such circumstances, please consult an attorney for guidance tailored to your situation.
Understanding rights as a tenant and obligations as a landlord in situations involving family violence is crucial. Let’s look at how the law in Texas addresses this.
The Texas Association of Realtors Residential (TAR) Lease
For those who are renting single-family homes in Texas, you’ll likely be familiar with the Texas Association of Realtors Residential (TAR) lease. This lease is common and includes Paragraph 28 Section (2), which touches upon family violence situations. Specifically, it allows a tenant to terminate the lease if they provide the landlord with documentation under §92.016 of the Texas Property Code, which offers immediate lease termination for family violence committed by a cotenant or occupant of the property. If, however, the violence stems from someone outside the property, a 30-day written notice prior to the effective date of the termination is required.
Section 92.016 of the Texas Property Code
This section goes into detail about a tenant’s right to vacate and avoid liabilities following family violence. A tenant can end their lease and vacate the dwelling without future rent liabilities if they meet certain criteria. One of these criteria is presenting the landlord with copies of court orders or documentation that confirms family violence, such as:
- Temporary injunctions or protective orders from a court.
- Documentation from licensed health care or mental health service providers who examined the victim.
- Documentation from an advocate who assisted the victim.
Ensuring Genuine Claims
It’s vital to understand that a tenant cannot merely make an undocumented claim of family violence to dodge lease responsibilities. Concrete evidence, as outlined by the law, such as protective orders or documentation from medical professionals, is necessary to prove the claim and ensure the safety and protection of the affected individuals.
Landlord Responsibilities and Penalties
Landlords need to be aware that violating Section 92.016 can lead to penalties. They may be liable for actual damages, a civil penalty equal to a month’s rent plus $500, and even attorney’s fees.
The state of Texas takes family violence seriously and offers avenues for affected tenants to find relief and protection. However, it is crucial to follow the stipulated legal channels and provide the necessary documentation. If you’re a tenant or landlord navigating a family violence situation, always seek legal advice and ensure you’re making informed decisions..