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Read further to learn more about the residential lease termination process in Texas and how many days notice are required in which situations.
What is a Lease Termination Notice?
Tenants do not always comply with the terms of their lease. In instances where individuals fail to pay rent or violate other provisions, you may wish to terminate the lease early. In the Lone Star State, this is done by providing a Lease Termination Notice in accordance with the guidelines set forth in the Texas Property Code.
A lease termination notice might also be necessary if the original contract has expired and tenants are occupying the property on a month-to-month basis. This requires a somewhat different procedure than in cases where renters have violated their lease. As such, you should keep in mind the exact circumstances when writing a Lease Termination Notice.
Monthly or Month-to-Month Lease
Monthly leases are designed to be very short term ones that can easily be terminated by either the landlord or tenant. Month-to-month leases are those in which the original lease term has expired and tenants have not signed a new one. In that case, the provisions of your original lease should dictate that the tenancy will be held on a “month-to-month” basis, and may be terminated at any time by providing sufficient notice.
Timeline for Terminating a Monthly or Month-to-Month Lease
Section 91.001 of the Texas Property Code spells out the timeline for terminating a monthly or month-to-month tenancy. According to this section, you must provide sufficient notice, which varies based upon the rent-paying period.
If the payment period is one month, the termination will be effective one month after the day you provide notice. When rent payments are less than one month (such as with weekly rent), the notice period must be equal to the number of days in the rent-paying period.
You may specify a different timeframe in your letter, provided it meets the minimum guidelines as stated above. However, you are exempt from this timeline if a different one has been specified in your lease or you are terminating based on a breach of contract.
For month-to-month leases, you should provide at least 60 days’ notice. This requirement is spelled out in Section 94.055 of the Texas Property Code.
Writing a Notice
No special verbiage is required when terminating a month-to-month or monthly lease. As such, your letter can simply contain a statement saying that you, the landlord intend to terminate the lease dated on (x) and signed by (name of tenant) for the property located at (street address). Sign the letter and provide a date on which it will become effective, keeping in mind the timeframe listed above.
When terminating a monthly or month-to-month lease, you are not required to provide a reason for doing so. However, you should ensure that your reasons are not retaliatory in nature. According to Section 94.251 of the Texas Property Code, landlords may not retaliate against tenants who have attempted to exercise a right, provided a notice to repair the property, or issued a complaint to a government agency concerning a property code violation.
Serving a Monthly Notice to Vacate
Texas law does not specify the manner in which a monthly Notice to Vacate should be delivered. Even so, you should take the appropriate measures to document the delivery date by sending the notice through certified mail with a return receipt requested. That way, you have a clear record of when the termination date should be. This could prove very important if the tenant fails to leave as requested and you are later forced to proceed with a Notice to Vacate.
Terminating a Lease Early
You may sometimes need to terminate a lease early due to non-payment of rent or the violation of certain terms. Section 94.253 of the Texas Property Code also spells out certain instances in which you are authorized to terminate a lease early without the act being considered retaliation. Those instances include:
- Whenever the tenant is delinquent in rent or other payments, and that amount adds up to at least a full month’s rent.
- Property damage takes place at the hands of a tenant, guest, or invitee.
- A tenant, guest, or invitee threatens the personal safety of the landlord, other tenants, or the landlord’s employees.
- There has been a material breach of any of the lease terms, aside from holding over.
- Serious misconduct or criminal acts.
- Holding over after the tenant has provided you with an Intent to Vacate.
- Whenever you in good faith believe that a holdover tenant might negatively affect the quiet enjoyment of neighbors or other tenants.
Notice to Vacate
Lease terminations that result from a tenant’s breach require a Notice to Vacate. Section 24.005 of the Texas Property Code describes the Notice to Vacate in greater detail. Essentially, this is a notice you provide to the tenant prior to filing an eviction notice.
Prepare your Notice to Vacate in letter format, using an official letterhead whenever possible. Within the letter, include the tenant’s names, property address, and a reason for the termination. Provide a date and time on which the termination will become effective, ensuring that it conforms with the guidelines specified by law.
Conclude with a sentence or two stating that if the tenant fails to comply with this notice that you will take further action. Clearly state that you will pursue eviction proceedings if you do intend to do so. Sign, date, and time stamp the letter. It is also a good idea to prepare two copies so that you and the tenant both have one that contains your original signature.
Timeframe for a Notice to Vacate
Section 24.005 (a) states that a landlord must provide any tenant who defaults on a lease or holds over at least three day’s written notice that he or she is to vacate the property. If you have provided for a longer period in your original lease, this section will require you to comply with that timeframe instead.
Delivering the Notice to Vacate
The Notice to Vacate will not be effective unless it is delivered in the proper manner. Section 24.005 of the Texas Property Code spells out the various methods by which you may make delivery. They include leaving the notice with someone living at the residence who is at least 16 years of age, affixing the notice to the inside of the main entry door, by regular postal mail, or via registered, certified, or return receipt requested mail.
There may be times when personally delivering the notice could put your safety in jeopardy. In that case, you are authorized to affix the notice to the outside of the main entry door.
Place the notice in a sealed envelope with the tenant’s name and address clearly marked on it. Write “IMPORTANT DOCUMENT” or another similar phrase on the envelope in all capital letters. No later than 5 pm on the same day, you should drop a copy of the notice in a postal mailbox in the same county where your property is located.
Delivery Timeframe for a Notice to Vacate
According to Section 24.005 (g) the notice period begins the date the Notice to Vacate is delivered. That is the same day for hand-delivered notices, but could be several days later for ones that are mailed. Accordingly, you should take this timeframe into consideration when preparing your written Notice to Vacate.
A best practice is to always use certified, registered, or return receipt requested mail. That way, you have clear documentation as to the delivery date, and a tenant will not be able to dispute your deadline in court. If you hand deliver the notice, have someone accompany you as a witness. Better yet, take a photograph containing a time and date stamp of the notice posted on the door.
Prior to Lease Expiration
There are instances in which you may not wish to renew a lease, yet do not necessarily wish for the tenant to leave immediately. In those cases, Section 94.055 of the Texas Property Code requires you to provide a notice at least 60 days before the lease expires. This timeframe applies to leases that are current as well as those that have reverted to a “month-to-month” status.
Special Rights for Military
Members of the military may have certain rights under the Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act (SCRA). The provisions of this act allow service members to terminate their leases early in certain instances. It also protects them against evictions or early terminations.
For example, you may not be able to terminate a lease based upon non-payment if the tenant’s military service has adversely affected his or her ability to pay. This most often occurs whenever a national guardsman or reservist is called to active duty and subsequently notices a reduction in pay.
An individual’s military service could limit your ability to enforce deadlines. For example, if a tenant was unavailable due to deployment, a judge might rule that you could not proceed with an eviction notice because that individual has not been properly notified.
If a tenant claims protections under the SCRA, he or she should provide you with a copy of Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders, or deployment orders that are for 90 days or longer.