San Antonio, TX

On March 13th, 2021 I was informed by my landlord that the house I have been renting for three months was about to be listed on the market for sale. During that phone conversation, the landlord advised me that I would be able to exit the lease without penalty by providing her with a 30 day written notice. Her intention with this was to sweeten the deal for a potential buyer that the current tenant was able to quickly move out of the property. My wife and I are three months into the twelve-month lease on the home.

Fifteen minutes after that phone conversation, my wife and I began the home buying process. We spoke with our real estate agent and began the pre-approval paperwork to get our mortgage. We started scheduling showings and getting the ball rolling as quickly as possible because the housing market is so crazy.

March 15th we got our pre-approval letter from the bank. That same day, the 15th, the landlord texted me informing me that I was going to be contacted about showings. I texted her, verbatim:

"Can you confirm that we can exit the lease without penalty with a 30 day notice?"

She replied,

"Yes agreed'

March 19th we put an offer on a home and have since been working with the lender to get all of the documents needed to close on April 23rd, 2021.

On March 30th, 2021 the landlord reneged on this agreement stating that there was no written addendum to the lease agreement and that the new owner, some property investor, wants to keep the lease whole. From my estimates, she executed the sale contract on my rental property sometime after March 15th, 2021. Now she is stating that her offer had changed because an investor was purchasing the property and that I took too long to give my notice that I was going to be moving. During that conversation, I promptly wrote an email to her stating that I would be exiting the lease per our agreement.

My biggest concerns here are:

1 - Fees, dues, and penalties resulting from us leaving the property. The lease has these well defined and it seems like if I left like we will be doing, there is a significant penalty for doing so. 2 - Can this affect my escrow? Neither the lender, the closing agent, or my real estate agent have asked for a copy of my lease. Now that I have thought about it, if they did ask for a copy of the lease my debt-to-income ratio could be changed because of my contractual obligation to the lease as it is written. 3 - Civil judgments against me - I don't want to get sued for this by the new owner who I suspect doesn't know about the agreement I made with the current owner.

For added info - my landlord is set to close on her sale of the property April 20th. My wife and I are set to close on our house purchase April 23rd. We gave notice of our intent to exit the lease on March 30th stating that we would leave the property on April 29th. We have already spent about 5K in earnest money and inspection, appraisal costs on the house we're buying. Our rent is almost 2K a month and we have about 8 months left on the lease.

What do I do?

  • What happened first on March 30th? your notice, or his withdrawal? – Iñaki Viggers Mar 31 at 14:18
  • The landlord texted me first informing me that I would have to pay a fee to exit the lease. – Wesley Balmer Mar 31 at 14:35
  • Then this sounds more confusing. Are you concerned about having to pay the fee? when did he tell you about the fee? and when did he renege? The sequence of the events is crucial. – Iñaki Viggers Mar 31 at 14:42
  • On March 13th we were told no fee to exit, On March 30th we were told there would be a fee to exit and that the previous offer wasn't an agreement. – Wesley Balmer Mar 31 at 14:46
  • It is still unclear (1) when exactly you gave your notice, and (2) whether by "the landlord reneged" you mean he only added the exit fee or he altogether withdrew the chance to terminate the lease prematurely. – Iñaki Viggers Mar 31 at 14:49

The landlord has done no (legal) wrong

Ethically it’s a bit questionable, but the law can’t help you there.

Offer and acceptance

The landlord made you an offer: that you could end the lease early with 30-days notice. Before you accepted that offer, the landlord withdrew it. She has every right to do this - that’s contract law 101.

The fact that you acted on that offer without accepting it is your decision and the consequences are your consequences.

Promissory Estoppal

I’m not familiar enough with estoppel under Texas law to judge whether you have a case here. Certainly, in Australia, you wouldn’t because the landlord was never aware that you were acting on their promise to allow you to end the lease early and knowing that the plaintiff is relying on the promise is a key element.


What do I do?

It is hard to make sense of your matter because the additional information you provide keeps being inconsistent with prior details. As an example, your mention that "there would be a fee to exit" is inconsistent with the fee being for allowing you "to sublet the property to the new tenant". Exiting a lease and subletting have different ramifications.

If you gave your notice before landlord's withdrawal of his offer, then that specific agreement is binding and it would too late for the landlord to change his mind. See Restatement (Second) of Contracts at §§35(2), 36, and 63.

But if landlord's notification of the fee preceded your notice, it means that your power of acceptance of the initial no-penalty offer was terminated. At that point your power of acceptance pertains only to the landlord's new or current offer (whether it involves the exit fee, the subletting fee, or a subsequent variant).

The landlord's pretext that "there was no written addendum to the lease agreement" is unavailing if by the time he mentioned it you already had given your notice. In that case, even if the lease prescribes how it ought to be modified, the landlord waived such provisions by confirming to you (and actually in writing) his offer. As a somewhat related principle see Restatement at §27, keeping in mind that your notice pursuant to landlord's [whatever] offer forms a binding agreement rather than "preliminary negotiations".

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