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Briefcase: Domestic Violence And Tenant Law

Guest: Professor Janet Heppard



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Individuals in abusive relationships are afforded certain protections while renting a residence. Janet Heppard, with the University of Houston Law Center, is a family law expert and explains the options.

"Victims of domestic violence may stay in an abusive relationship rather than break their lease," Professor Heppard said. "However, Texas law allows a tenant to vacate a rental residence and avoid liability for payment of future rent, if the tenant is a victim of domestic violence. The tenant may terminate the lease early, by providing the landlord with a protective order, or a copy of documentation of family violence from an advocate who has assisted the victim."

Heppard said the law will penalize landlords who refuse to allow the victim out of the lease. "The right to vacate cannot be waived by the tenant," she said. "Landlords who don't abide by the statute may be liable for actual damages, a civil penalty equal to one month's rent, plus $500 and attorney's fees."

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