Attorney Trey Wilson - RL Wilson Law

08 August 2009

Landlord's Remedies When Tenants Abandon Leased Premises

As a real estate lawyer in San Antonio, I am frequently asked about a Landlord's options upon learning that a Tenant has moved-out without notice, or who simply abandoned the leased premises before a lease ends. The Texas Supreme Court has recognized four distict causes of action that a landlord may assert against a tenant who breaches a lease by abandoning the premises:

(1) maintain the lease and sue for rent as it becomes due;
(2) treat the breach as an anticipatory repudiation, repossess, and sue for the present value of future rentals reduced by the reasonable cash market value of the property for the remainder of the lease term;
(3)treat the breach as anticipatory, repossess, re-lease the property to a new tenant, and sue the original tenant for the difference between the contractual rent and the amount received from the new tenant; or
(4) declare the lease forfeited (if the lease so provides)and relieve the tenant of liability for future rent.

See Austin Hill Country Realty, Inc. v. Palisades Plaza, Inc., 948 S.W.2d 293, 300 (Tex. 1997).

However, it is important to remember that a landlord has a duty to mitigate its losses/damages when a tenant abandons the leased premises and stops paying rent. Id., at 295–300. This principle recognizes that a landlord who claims anticipatory breach has a duty to mitigate because the landlord’s claim is contractual in nature. Id. at 300.

Further, the Texas Legislature has codified the landlord’s duty to mitigate as section 91.006 of the Property Code. See TEX.PROP.CODE ANN.§ 91.006 (Vernon 2007). That same section prohibits, and makes "void," lease terms that attempt to exempt a landlord from a liability or duty to mitigate its losses. Id.

Trey Wilson --Named By Scene in SA Magazine As One of San Antonio's Best Real Estate Litigation Attorneys -- September 2008 -- As voted on by peers