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What Is Subletting? What Are the Pros and Cons?

By: Justin Chaplin
August 29, 2019

Subletting. You’ve probably heard the term a few times before, but it’s one of those words that doesn't offer a clear definition. If you, like many others, aren’t sure what subletting is, no worries. We’ve got you covered with everything that you need to know about subletting and whether it’s the right move for you.

What is Subletting?

A sublet, sometimes called a sublease, is a contract under which a tenant rents out their apartment to another individual while their name is still on the lease. The original tenant is referred to as the sublessor, and the new tenant is referred to as a sublessee.

 This differs from simply renting out a room to a roommate. When subleasing, only the original tenant's name is on the lease. In a roommate situation, all tenants are named on the lease.

There are many reasons why someone might choose to sublet their apartment. Sometimes a person must move out of their apartment before their lease ends. Or perhaps a renter must move out of town for an extended period of time. Subletting an apartment allows tenants to avoid breaking their lease and save money if they intend to return after a period of time.

5 Essential Steps To Subletting an Apartment 

Subletting an apartment can be an easy, pain-free experience if you know what you’re doing and take the time to do it right. Unfortunately, this can be hard if you’re in a rush to get out of town. Here’s everything that you need to know about how to sublet an apartment.

1. Make Sure You Are Allowed to Sublet

One of the most confusing things about subletting an apartment is determining whether or not you’re actually allowed to do so. There are varying laws regarding subletting on both a state and municipal level. Not to mention, your landlord may have a clause discussing subletting written into your lease agreement. 

That’s why it’s imperative to ensure that you’re legally allowed to sublet. Go over your lease and rental agreement thoroughly and look for anything mentioning subtenants and subleasing. Sometimes landlords don’t want anyone other than their own vetted tenant, you, living in their property. If you don’t see a clause in the lease, be sure to ask your landlord. 

They may refuse to allow you to sublet, even if state and municipal laws say that you can. If they “unreasonably” refuse to allow you to sublet, you may take them to court. However, if their rejection is reasonable, you are legally not allowed to sublet. If you find that you are allowed to sublet and have your landlord's permission, be sure to get it in writing. 

2. Check-In With Your Renter’s Insurance Company

Renter’s insurance typically covers your belongings in the event of a theft and limits your liability if someone is injured in your home. It may also extend the coverage of your living expenses if, for some reason, you are unable to occupy the home you currently reside in. 

Before subletting, check-in with your renter’s insurance provider to determine whether your coverage extends to subtenants. If it doesn’t and the provider doesn’t have any packages that do, you may have to remove your personal belongings from the home. This will prevent you from having to cover any damage to your property out-of-pocket that comes from a subtenant. Remember, you paid the security deposit when you moved in. Therefore, damages caused by the new tenant is money out of your wallet.

3. Post Your Sublet and Market It

Put on your thinking cap and come up with an eye-catching sublet advertisement. Be sure to include quality photos of the apartment, a list of amenities, and the rent cost. If you have any roommates, be sure to include that here as well. Highlighting the neighborhood and any nearby attractions is also a great way to sell your home. Giving as many details as possible of your apartment is important. This helps you attract more potential subtenants than you would with a vague description and no pictures.

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You can ask your landlord for help with this or ask them to send you a copy of the ad they used when you moved in. Take that advertisement and tweak it to suit your needs. You can post your ad on social media and sites like Nextdoor or Craigslist. 

Be wary of the sites that you post on. To limit the scam emails that you may receive, create a separate email address and don’t put your number online.

4. Interview and Screen Potential Subtenants

Once you have gotten a few offers on your apartment, schedule a sort of “open house.” You’ll be responsible for showing the apartment to potential subtenants. Once you have shown the house, tell subtenants to submit an application that you have created.

After they do so, you should be free to complete background checks on potential subtenants. You’ll want to ensure that they don’t have a history of evictions, not paying rent, or criminal history. This will help you to avoid headaches in the future.

5. Sign a Sublet Agreement

After finding the perfect subtenant, you can then have them sign a sublet agreement. There are many sublet agreement templates online that you can customize to suit your needs. 

However, it may be a good idea to ask your landlord for some help. They can make suggestions for any clauses to add or omit. Once you’ve both signed the sublease agreement and you’ve received payment — congrats! You’ve officially sublet your apartment.

Should You Sublet?

Subletting your apartment lets you see the other side of renting, the landlord’s side. It can be stressful and, frankly, difficult to pull off subletting your apartment. From finding the right tenant to collecting rent payments from wherever you might be, subletting isn’t for the faint of heart.

However, before you make a decision, it’s a good idea to understand the pros and cons of subletting.

The Pros of Subletting

  • Avoid Breaking Lease Early - Whether you’re moving away or going on an extended vacation, subletting can help you avoid breaking your lease which can damage your renter’s history and result in a fine. 
  • Avoid Losing Money - Paying rent on an apartment that you aren’t living in, isn’t only a waste of time… it’s a waste of money.
  • Freedom to Travel - Subletting your apartment allows you to avoid that tied down feeling we get when we call one place home for too long. Let your wanderlust thrive by subletting.

The Cons of Subletting

  • Difficult to Find the Right Tenant - The perfect tenant is one in a million, meaning that along the way you’ll likely encounter a number of subtenants with poor renter’s history. 
  • Potential for a Subtenant to Break Agreement - There’s no guarantee that a subtenant won’t experience the same life changes that caused you to have to leave your apartment. If this happens, you’ll be stuck paying rent for an apartment that you’re not living in or risk breaking the lease.
  • You Put Your Reputation on the Line - If your subtenant turns out to be a disaster, your landlord may evict you. This could cause tons of future issues when you look for your next apartment.

The Bottom Line

Don’t let subletting get you down. If you are in a bind and need to sublet your apartment, take steps to ensure that you are doing it the right way to get the most out of your subletting experience and avoid headaches.

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