If you have a validly signed lease and your landlord breaches that lease, what are your rights and remedies under Texas law? Landlord liability in this situation is governed by statute and further clarified by case law.
The Texas Property Code states, “If the landlord of a tenant who is not in default under a lease fails to comply in any respect with the lease agreement, the landlord is liable to the tenant for damages resulting from the failure.” Tex. Prop. Code Ann. § 91.004 (West). This statute is applicable to both commercial and residential leases. So, for example, if a landlord who owns a building that contains a restaurant locks the restaurant owner out for a month in breach of the lease, the restaurant owner can go after the landlord for lost profits from being unable to open for business for a month. If the restaurant owner has to move locations because the landlord will not allow him entry to the property, then the landlord is liable for the moving costs as well.
If you sue a landlord for breach and seek to recover damages, you will need to be able to prove the damages you suffered. In McKenzie v. Carte, a landlord locked a tenant out of a property in violation of a valid lease. McKenzie v. Carte, 385 S.W.2d 520 (Tex. Civ. App. 1964), writ refused NRE (Apr. 28, 1965). The tenant was subletting a portion of the space to another tenant before the lockout and was able to show that a sublease was in place and the tenant would receive $400 a month in rent from the sublessee for the rest of the lease term. Id. The tenant was awarded damages to account for this lost income and the court of appeals held this was a valid award of damages because the tenant had proven the income he was losing. Id. Conversely, in Van Sickle v. Clark, a tenant was evicted from the premises in breach of a validly signed lease and claimed damages in the amount of $300.00 for work put into the premises to make them suitable for his business. Van Sickle v. Clark, 510 S.W.2d 664, 666 (Tex. Civ. App. 1974). The tenant failed to produce receipts, or any other evidence of the work performed, and so the court declared his award of damages invalid. Id.
Instances of breach are typically nuanced and fact intensive. It is important to talk to an experienced real estate lawyer to assess your lease, determine if a breach has occurred, and to determine the best way to cure any damages you suffered from the breach.
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