What is Subletting?
Ever wondered just what is subletting? Subletting is a temporary housing arrangement that allows a sublessor (the current tenant) to rent all or part of their apartment to another occupant, known as a subletter or subtenant.
The subletter lives in your leased apartment and pays rent directly to you, the sublessor, rather than to the landlord. The original tenant remains solely responsible for payment of rent to the landlord, and must cover any damages or breaches of the lease agreement.
Subletting is popular for students, young adults, and individuals who travel frequently for their job. For example:
- A graduate student studying abroad for a semester could use a sublease to cover the costs of their rent while they’re gone.
- A young professional on a job assignment in another city may use a sublease agreement rather than void their original lease, or pay rent on an unused space.
On the other hand, if you need a place to live for a short period of time, you can find renters who are seeking subletters to temporarily take over their leases.
Subleasing offers a creative short-term rental solution for keeping rental costs low, but it does have inherent risks.
Use the following five steps to mitigate those risks while subletting an apartment:
How to Sublease an Apartment in 5 Steps
This five-step guide will help you sublet an apartment safely and legally, whether you’re a landlord or a tenant.
Subletting as the Original Tenant
If you sublease as the original tenant, it means your name is currently on the lease agreement for your apartment. In a sublease agreement, you’re still responsible for paying rent, handling utilities, and keeping the property in good condition.
You and the subletter enter into a separate sublease agreement — independent of the lease agreement between you and the landlord. Follow these tips for renting to a subletter:
1. Confirm That a Sublease is the Best Choice
Subleasing isn’t a passive arrangement. Make sure that you’re comfortable addressing any potential problems that may arise with your subtenant. This includes evicting your subtenant for non-payment or inappropriate behavior.
If your subtenant fails to pay rent on time or defaults on your sublease agreement, be prepared to cover their rent personally. If you don’t, your original lease with your landlord will be in jeopardy.
2. Examine Your Lease Agreement
Look carefully at your original lease before you make the decision to sublease. Your lease is a legally binding agreement between you, the other residents of your home, and your landlord. This means that your subletter will be obligated to follow all of the same rules.
In addition to monthly rent costs, your lease terms most likely include conditions about pets, vehicles, maintenance, and noise ordinances. If your subletter fails to follow the terms of your lease, the consequences fall back on you.
It’s also essential that you check if your lease includes a specific sublease provision. Some landlords strictly forbid subleasing, or simply require you to ask for permission beforehand. Others only allow subleasing under specific conditions. Follow the subleasing rules as they’re described in your original lease.
3. Notify Your Landlord
Once you’ve made the decision to sublease your apartment, let your landlord know. Make sure you receive permission in writing before taking further action. A verbal agreement may not protect you if issues develop in the future regarding your decision to sublease.
4. Find a Reliable Tenant
Your ultimate goal is to find a credible, reliable tenant for your sublease. Begin by:
- Creating an advertisement for your home that describes its features.
- List the dates that it will be available.
- Provide your contact information.
- Post your advertisement on social media, rental or advertising websites (e.g., Craigslist), and other community sites.
- Reach out to friends and colleagues, and ask them to spread the word.
Once you’ve found a few people interested in subleasing your apartment, screen them properly by verifying their:
- Criminal record
5. Complete the Sublease
Now that the hard work is done, it’s time to complete the sublease agreement with your new subletter.
A sublease agreement is signed by the original tenant leasing the premises and the new subletter. You and your subletter must agree upon the following important information:
- Total rent due each month
- Total amount due for the term of the sublease
- Forms of payment accepted
- Whether parking, storage, and/or furniture are included
- Length of sublease term
- Late fees
- Utility payments
- Other important lease provisions, including pet restrictions and smoking rules
Including all relevant information in your sublease agreement protects your rights, and clearly outlines the expectations of your subletter should a future dispute arise.
Subletting as a Subtenant
If you’re looking for short-term housing, subleasing is a popular solution. Use the following steps to navigate the subleasing process.
1. Assess the Property
Once you find a property that fits your needs, visit the home and complete a careful assessment of its condition. Photographing and noting existing damage in a rental inspection checklist will help you avoid blame for problems you didn’t cause.
2. Review the Original Lease Terms
As a subtenant, you must follow the terms of your sublease agreement and the landlord’s original lease. Review all terms, rules, and provisions so that you’re aware of your obligations as a subtenant.
3. Negotiate Your Sublease Price and Terms
A sublease is a flexible arrangement since it’s built between you and the original tenant of the property. You can work together to negotiate a fair monthly rent and reasonable terms.
Don’t hesitate to bring up any issues that concern you, such as mail forwarding, inventory and storage of the sublessor’s personal property, or early termination procedures.
4. Sign a Subleasing Agreement
Once you’re ready to commit, it’s time to sign the sublease agreement. This legal document outlines the terms and conditions of your sublease, including rent and utility costs, as well as late fees. Read it carefully, and ask questions before signing.
5. Move In
Congratulations, your sublease is official. It’s time to get your keys, move in, and make yourself comfortable in your new apartment.