Houston, TX asked in Contracts and Landlord - Tenant for Texas

Q: Seeking guidance on getting out of an apartment lease or mitigating the cost of getting out of lease.

My son is under a 12-month lease agreement on a newly constructed apartment building adjacent to a college campus. Move-in was mid August but was delayed several weeks due to construction delays. At move-in the many construction items were still not complete and complaints from residents led to local news stations reporting onthe matter. Nevertheless my son moved. During the course of the semester it was evident the security was very laxed leading to an attempted robbery and murder of the suspect in one of the elevators. About a month prior there was another murder not far from the entrance of the building. There was also reports of thefts occurring inside the parking garage to vehicles. As parents, my wife and I are very concerned about our son’s safety and will be moving him to another location leaving approximately 6-months before our lease is up. Are we stuck with paying? We are one of many in this situation.

I am guarantor on the lease. Any guidance is much appreciated.

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1 Lawyer Answer
John Michael Frick
John Michael Frick
  • Frisco, TX
  • Licensed in Texas

A: It depends on the particular facts and circumstances of your case. One "bright line" rule is that if a certificate of occupancy ("CO") was not issued, your son could reject the lease for not yet being suitable for occupancy. The lack of completion of items could have an effect depending upon what items have not been completed.

Ordinarily, an apartment complex is not legally responsible to provide security absent an agreement to do so. Ordinarily, an apartment complex, parking garage, retail establishment, or office building is not liable for thefts occurring in parking lots. The presence of an attempted robbery/murder in an elevator and a nearby second murder may give rise to a duty by the landlord to warn residents about such criminal activity.

You may be legally responsible for the balance of the lease but the landlord may not seek to enforce that legal obligation if your son demands that the landlord immediately complete all unfinished construction work asserting that the landlord has by now had a reasonable opportunity to do so, and further demands that the landlord take reasonable steps (which your son should outline) to abate criminal activity on the premises. Under the facts described, I would state that such reasonable steps at a minimum should include installation of closed circuit video surveillance in all areas of the parking garage monitored by an armed licensed security guard, or off-duty police officer, stationed at each entrance to the parking garage along with closed circuit video surveillance in the elevators monitored by an armed licensed security guard or off-duty police officer stationed in the building near the elevator banks.

The prospective cost to the landlord of such steps may be so great that releasing you from six-months of your lease is more desirable, particularly if housing near the college is scarce and the landlord can easily relet the premises to another student.

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