Texas State Legislature has the following Statute on the books:
Sec. 91.006. LANDLORD'S DUTY TO MITIGATE DAMAGES. (a) A landlord has a duty to mitigate damages if a tenant abandons the leased premises in violation of the lease.
(b) A provision of a lease that purports to waive a right or to exempt a landlord from a liability or duty under this section is void.
However, I spoke with a number of corporate landlords in West Campus, Austin, TX, and at least a quarter of them seem to be very surprised about any such law.
Those surprised landlords do, however, seem to admit both of the following:
that some of their tenants did most likely already remove all of their belongings about mid-May and possibly already returned the keys prior to the standard July 31 move-out date (end-of-July move-out (and mid-August move-in) are standard amongst most apartments in the area)
those same tenants that have officially moved out are still happily paying rent (having clearly declared such an intent when returning the keys), and are not specifically interested in subletting (possibly because of the hefty penalties as below).
Thus, the aforementioned landlords do not entertain any sublet requests from the walk-ins interested in a summer sublet, unless a prior contact with an existing tenant was made by such a walk-in.
Is this legal? Doesn't this have the effect of the tenant effectively waiving their rights, which explicitly aren't supposed to be waiveable? Or, alternatively,
can a contract really be drafted to such an effect that removing all personal effects from the room is not deemed abandonment and does not violate the lease as long as "rent" is paid?
can a landlord refuse to accept keys prior to the end of the lease term, or, if keys are nonetheless submitted to landlord's possession, pretend that the keys are merely submitted for safekeeping, even when it's perfectly clear that keys were submitted at the end of the Spring term in mid-May, and the tenant will not be staying the rest of the lease until end of July?
I've also noticed that at least some landlords have substantial penalties should one wish to argue abandonment (at which point "rent" becomes "damages"):
accelerated rent (which is a favourite pastime for rental agreements in Texas, even though the legality of it is unclear);
subletting fees, equivalent to as much as 85% of one month's rent, and payable regardless of the outcome of the subletting.
Doesn't such excessive penalties effectively force scared tenants to pretend that they're staying over the summer until the very end of the lease, even if they're leaving two and a half months early in a relatively cold market?