One of the most common violations of law I see regarding collection of debts related to apartments is a landlord’s failure to mitigate damages. Chapter 91.006 of the Texas Property Code imposes this duty on landlords:
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.
If a tenant breaks the lease and vacates the rental before the end of the lease, the landlord has to make reasonable efforts to find a replacement tenant. The rents the replacement tenant pays, during the term of the breached lease, are deducted from the amount the original tenant owes.
Here is an example: Amy’s mom gets sick. Amy moves out of her rental, even though she just re-signed a year lease, to take care of her. It takes the landlord six weeks to find a replacement tenant who pays the same rent as Amy. The landlord may not try to collect double rent from both Amy and the replacement tenant.
It can get complicated determining what is “reasonable” and how much of the damages of a breaching tenant can be mitigated. But when I see a landlord trying to collect 12 months of rent, it is a giant red flag.
A landlord who doesn’t mitigate damages violates the law. A landlord who attempts to collect double rent is violating the Texas Debt Collection Act. A debt collector who attempts to collect double rent is violating the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act.