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What is Subletting? The Extensive Guide to Subletting Your Rental

Not every tenant in their lives might face the need for subletting. But, we believe that anyone should know the main principles of subletting, its possible pros and cons, and what are the key steps you need to take to sublet your rental.

We dedicate this article to all ins and outs of subletting an apartment. That way, if you find yourself in a situation when you’d have to sublet your apartment, you’ll have all bases covered.

What Is Subletting?

Subletting — also referred to as subleasing — is a process of renting out the room or apartment to another tenant, with your name stated on the main lease with the landlord. The person who is subletting a property would be called a sublessor, while the other party is known as a sublessee or, simply, subtenant.  

In this situation, a sublessor is fully accountable for the apartment’s condition and rental payments to the landlord, as only they have the signed lease with the landlord. So, if a sublessee fails to pay the rent or damages something in the apartment, the original tenant must take over the costs. 

There are a few main reasons why the tenant would decide to sublet their home. For example, you might live with your friend who decides to move out, and you end up having a spare bedroom in your rental apartment. You could agree with your landlord that you’ll stay the sole renter mentioned in the agreement, but you will find someone to replace your previous roommate.

Also, you might want to look into this option if you decide to take a lengthy vacation but don’t want to give up your apartment. Subleasing the place for a few months will help you save money and keep your place for the time you will be gone. Or, maybe, you face the situation in which you’d have to move out of the apartment a couple of months before your lease expires. Similarly, you can find someone who’d be willing to rent the place from you till the end of your lease. 

Subletting vs. Assignment

Assignment can be a great alternative to subletting if you need to move out earlier than your lease expires and also don’t want to be responsible for the apartment in any way anymore. Generally speaking, assigning the rental, you transfer the lease to another person, along with all the rights and responsibilities you have for the place. Similarly to subletting, you have to get the permission of the landlord before you assign the lease. If you get the green light for assignment, though, you can get out of your lease without breaking it, saving some money and trouble for yourself.

Are You Allowed to Sublease?

It’s no secret landlord-tenant law can differ considerably depending on the state you find yourself in. And, it is especially noticeable when you look at the regulations regarding subletting.

Some states, such as California, allow the tenant to sublet the place if they receive permission from the landlord. Others, such as Colorado, give a landlord the right to prohibit subletting if they specifically state so in the written lease. And, there are plenty of states like Massachusetts or Kentucky, which do not have any specific provisions regarding subleasing. If you’re a resident of one of these states, you must pay additional attention to your written lease with the landlord and if there are any clauses prohibiting subleasing. 

Also, there are a few states where the laws about subletting may seem a little obscure (and that’s why they’re definitely worth mentioning!). For example, in New York State, any tenant who lives in a building with four or more residential units has the right to sublet their place — even if the lease states otherwise!

Pro Tip: If your landlord gives permission to sublet the apartment, strive to receive written consent from them. This will help you to avoid any possible issues and misunderstandings in the future.

Responsibilities of Each Party

As we mentioned earlier, since the original tenant’s name is the only one on the lease agreement with the landlord, they stay responsible for delivering rental payments on time to the landlord. But, the process of paying the rent if you’re subletting will mostly depend on your arrangements with the landlord. 

In some cases, you might want to collect the payments from the subtenant and hand them over to the landlord — this could be the case if you sublet the room and keep living in the same place as well. Also, you can establish that the subtenant pays straight to the landlord or property manager. While this could seem more convenient in certain circumstances, you should keep in mind that this way, you will not be able to keep track if the payment has been made. 

In case of any issues, the landlord will hold you responsible, and you would have to cover all unpaid rent. Similarly, they can deduct money from your security deposit if the property gets damaged beyond normal wear and tear by the subtenant. If you aren’t able to pay the landlord in time, they have the right to start an eviction process against you. So, as you can see, not only your finances but also your rental history is on the line if subletting goes wrong. 

How to Sublet Your Apartment

So, if you believe that subleasing the apartment might be the right choice for you, then it’s time to figure out what steps you should take to sublet the apartment in the right way. There are some nuances you might want to take into account.

1. Research your local and state laws

As we discussed before, local and state laws play a crucial role when it comes to subletting. And, even if your written agreement states that the subletting is prohibited, it might turn out that you’re allowed to do so. 

To be prepared for your talk with the landlord, make sure you understand the basics of tenant rights related to subletting in your state. That way, you will know what is the right way to communicate with your landlord and if you need to submit your request in writing and expect to receive permission in writing as well.

2. Carefully read your lease agreement

Your lease agreement is another key element you cannot overlook before the actual conversation with your landlord. As you could see from before, the possibility of subletting in many states depends on the clause included in the lease. You might be surprised to find out that the clause prohibiting subletting the apartment was in your agreement all along. But, even if you see that your lease clearly states that you can move forward with subleasing, we strongly recommend you to talk to your landlord or property manager about your intentions. 

3. Talk to your landlord or property manager

Continuing the previous point, it’s always a great idea to approach your landlord — no matter what your lease says. If there are no clauses regarding subletting your apartment, and you know it’s allowed in your state, talk over with your property manager to double-check if they don’t have any objections. And, if they do, you will have a bit of an upper hand in your dispute, knowing that it’s not prohibited both by your lease and state laws.

On the other hand, if your agreement explicitly states that no subletting is permitted, you can try to approach the property manager and convince them to change their mind. Explain why you’re in need to sublet and see if they are willing to meet you halfway. Mind that subletting might still not be allowed by HOA rules and regulations, for example, so there is not much your landlord can do. But, they might be open to renegotiating the lease terms or work out how to end your lease earlier if that’s the case.

More like this: How to Find a Great (Not Just Any) Roommate

4. Check your renter’s insurance

Subletting your apartment most probably means that you won’t be around to keep an eye on the property anymore. This means now it’s more important than ever to double-check what exactly your renter’s insurance covers and if you should upgrade your plan, switch to another provider, or request the subtenant to get their own renter’s insurance.

You should confirm if the insurance covers the personal property damage or personal liability if you’re not currently living in the apartment. This will let you come up with the best plan to stay protected and insured against any accidents.

5. Draft a subletting agreement

Now, when you are fully aware of everything you should keep in mind and discuss with your future subtenant, it’s time to take care of your subletting contract. One thing we’ll never get tired of repeating — every single agreement has to be confirmed in writing!

You can easily find a template of a standard sublet agreement online, but you take time and tailor it a bit to your specific situation if needed. Also, don’t forget to show it to the landlord before signing to ensure you didn’t miss any important details. 

Clarify certain things such as the subtenant’s rights and responsibilities, if the rental payments should be sent to the landlord or yourself, and information about the security deposit.

6. Pick a reliable subtenant

Choosing the right person who will be living in your apartment is half the success. After all, they’ll either be sharing your home with you or stay in your place when you are gone. In both cases, it is extremely important to choose a responsible and dependable person.

While you cannot predict with a hundred percent certainty that a stranger you meet will turn out to be a fairytale perfect subtenant, there are certain steps you can take. First of all, do not disregard the importance of the good old tenant screening. Requesting a background check and credit report will help you weed out those applicants who might have had some issues. Add to this a few references and a short interview with your potential subtenant, and you have a pretty high chance of finding a subtenant you’ll be happy with.

Pros and Cons of Subletting

Obviously, just like everything else in our lives, subletting has some pros and cons you have to consider before jumping into signing a contract. Here are some of the main points to keep in mind for those who decide to sublet.

Pros

Saving money

Regardless of the exact reason why you decide to sublease — whether you leave to study in Europe for half a year or found yourself in an unfortunate situation of no roommate and one extra bedroom — it will save you some money. It’s basically a crime not to find a subtenant if your apartment is empty for a few months.

Keeping the apartment

If you love your home and don’t want to move out but cannot afford to pay for two places (in case you leave) or your rental is too expensive for one person (in case your roommate left), apartment subletting can become a lifesaver. 

Avoiding breaking the lease

Breaking the lease comes with plenty of consequences — from penalties and fees to hurting your credit score to facing a lawsuit. So, if you know that you cannot stay in the apartment till the end of the lease, subleasing can be one of the best options to escape the predicament that can haunt you for many next years.

Extra freedom

For many of us, the knowledge that there might not be a home to come back to is one of the main things that would discourage us from going on lengthy trips. Knowing that you can sublet an apartment and come back in a few months with no need to schlep around searching for a new home can give you a sense of freedom and confidence to leave.

Cons

Losing money

You’re still responsible to the property manager or landlord for everything the subtenant might do. So, if they fail to pay their rent for a few months, break something in the apartment, or simply disappear, you’d be the one who has to cover costs out of your own pocket.

More like this: Why Tenant Screening Is Important

Risking your reputation

What’s even worse, if the subtenant turns out to be really terrible, you might face eviction. This could also happen if you’re not able to pay for the inflicted damages. Not only it’s stressful and unpleasant — eviction will stain your rental history for a long time, making it challenging to find the next apartment. 

Letting a stranger in your home

If you plan to sublease a room, you have to take into consideration that from now on, this person will stay under the same roof. You might have different habits and different ideas about what being roommates actually means, and you might discover that your subtenant is simply intolerable. What’s more, they could use your stuff or even steal or damage some of your belongings. This can be especially true if you sublease for a short term and leave the place unattended. 

Most Common Questions About Subletting

What about the security deposit? 

The subject of the security deposit depends on your arrangements with both your property manager and subtenant. You could ask a sublessee for a security deposit before they move in (make sure to disclose all the details in the sublease agreement), or your landlord might want to collect and keep the deposit themselves. If you are leaving your apartment for some time, make sure to take pictures of its condition to avoid any misunderstandings in the future.

Can the landlord evict me for subletting?

Yes, if your lease prohibits subleasing, you could get evicted for violating the lease agreement. If your lease does not have a sublet clause, strive to obtain written permission from the landlord.

Can the property manager refuse a person I want to sublet to? 

Yes, if they believe the subtenant would not be able to pay their share of monthly rent or they find questionable records in the background or credit check

Summing Up

Hopefully, now you know how to handle subleasing in the best possible way. Our last piece of advice? Discuss everything with your landlord, pay attention to any legal documents (both your original lease and the sublease agreement), and take your time to find the best possible subtenant. 


Author Bio: Mariia Kislitsyna serves as an editor and writer for the Rentberry and Landlord Tips Blogs, dedicating the majority of her time to finding great new cities and interesting real estate information to write about. As a polyglot and literature fanatic, she also enjoys writing about culture, travel, and career, and she’s been featured in and written for a variety of publications across the web.

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