Kristin, The law imposes on all of us the obligation to read and understand any document which we sign. If we do not understand it completely, we should not sign, Your lease had a renewal clause which required you, as the tenant, to give the landlord 60 days written notice if you did not intend to renew and in the absence of such notice, the lease would automatically renew for an additional lease term. The fact that you were not in the property since May, has nothing to do with giving the required notice to the landlord.
By the same token, the law imposes on the landlord the obligation to look for a tenant and mitigate his damages. Landlords usually find tenants fairly quickly so that they do not go after the former tenant for the rent for the entire new lease term.
1. You are asking what you should tell your landlord. I would tell him that I will make every attempt to find a tenant, but I would also remind him that he has a legal obligation to mitigate his damages so he, too, must look for a tenant.
2. You gave the keys and possession back to the landlord. He had to take them because you said you were vacating the property. That did not mean that he waived his rights under the lease. I have never heard of a landlord that was unable to find a tenant and charged a former tenant an entire term's rent.
3. Yes, you can remain in the property until you or the landlord find a tenant to take your place in the property. And, if you can arrange it, that would probably be the best solution for you because if you will be obligated to pay rent until another tenant is found, then you at least will have possession of the property,
I realize that this is not exactly the Answer you were hoping for and it would have given me great pleasure to give you the Answer you wanted to hear, but I have an ethical obligation to you to give you only correct Answers and information, so I am respectfully asking that you not hold the law applicable to your situation against me,
Please be kind enough to give me a positive rating so that I receive credit for assisting you,