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New job is not an excuse to break lease

April 14, 2011 at midnight
Updated April 15, 2011 at 11:16 p.m.


By Richard Alderman

My husband and I have never rented an apartment and need some help. My husband may be transferred to another city with his company. If we do have to move soon, we'll break our lease by four months. The landlord says we will owe him for leaving early. Is he right?

You cannot just end your lease for a new job unless the lease says so. Leaving early for any reason not authorized in the lease will be considered a breach, and you could owe damages.

My suggestion is to talk with the landlord and to see if he will agree to terminate the lease early. Maybe if you pay a month or two rent, he will let you leave.

If you do work something out, be sure to get it in writing. If you do break the lease, you could owe rent until the end of the lease term, or until the apartment is rented to someone else, whichever is earlier.

A dog ran out from owner's yard while I was driving down the street. I hit and killed the dog, which resulted in $1,600 in damage to my car. Do I have a claim against the dog's owner for letting the dog run loose without a leash? Can I go to small claims court?

Collecting damages against a dog owner because of the dog's conduct can be difficult. For the owner to be liable, you must show some fault on the part of the owner. He is not liable simply because he owns the dog. In most cases, this requires you show he was negligent, and that negligence is what caused the accident.

Negligence basically is not acting as a reasonable person would. For example, if someone visiting the house opened the door and the dog ran out, the owner probably has no liability. He didn't act unreasonably. On the other hand, if the owner was walking the dog without a leash, and the dog ran across the street, he may be responsible because it is unreasonable to walk a dog without a leash. This would be especially true if the dog had done this before, and the owner knew he would run away.

If you think the owner is at fault in this case, file a claim in small claims court.

If you have been taken to court and had your parental rights terminated, do you still have to continue to pay child support? My former wife's new husband has adopted the child and my rights were terminated.

Once parental rights are terminated, you no longer have an obligation to pay support.

Richard Alderman is a professor at the University of Houston Law School in Houston. Write to him at UH Law Center, Houston, Texas 77204-6391.

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