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What is Subletting: An Overview + 10 Sublet Tips for 2023

September 28, 2022
Subletting involves creating a lease agreement under which a tenant rents out their apartment to another individual while their name is still on the lease.

Subletting, or a sublease agreement, adds someone new to an existing apartment lease. Most renters use subleases when a roommate moves out, but it can also be useful if you want to add someone new to a lease, like a significant other.

Subletting is also a low-risk strategy if you need to move suddenly and don't want to pay the penalty of breaking your lease. But it's essential to do it correctly, or you could be in violation of your lease terms and face financial consequences. So before you decide to sublease, here is an overview along with some subletting tips on how to proceed.

How to Sublet an Apartment

Don't just offer up a lease to an acquaintance and get ready to move out. Instead, sublet an apartment legally and with your landlord's approval with a few simple steps.

1. Make Sure You Are Allowed to Sublet

Check your lease and look for any sections referencing subletting. It may be forbidden altogether or allowed with pre-approval under certain circumstances. In some cases, including military and active duty requirements, you may be entitled to break your lease without penalty and skip subleasing altogether.

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

Your renter's insurance may stipulate whether you are covered for damage caused by a subletter. If you're not, you can request the subletter to carry their own insurance. Otherwise, you could be liable for any damage caused during your sublease agreement.

3. Research Local Rental Laws

Some local laws require you to obtain a landlord's consent before subletting or bringing in a new roommate. There are also restrictions around how much you can charge for a sublease, especially in rent-controlled markets.

4. Sign a Sublet Agreement

Don't agree to a sublet renting on a handshake, or you could leave yourself open to paying for the damage and taking over unpaid rent. Instead, a sublease agreement is a legal document allowing a tenant to transfer lease ownership to a third party.

5. Post Your Sublet and Market It

Subletting apartments in competitive markets, like New York or San Francisco, aren't hard to find. Start by asking your personal network if they know if someone is looking to take over a lease. Otherwise, post your sublet and market it through apartment rental sites, social media, or even college student newspapers.

6. Determine if You Need a Security Deposit

If your landlord permits you to sublet your apartment, they will probably require a security deposit directly from the new subtenant. But if you're handling the sublet yourself, you still need a deposit to cover any potential damage or non-payment of rent.

7. Consider Your Current Roommates

Keep your current roommates in the loop about your short-term sublet plans, as they may want someone they know to take over the lease or be part of the search for a new renter. Otherwise, they could resent your decision and create tension in the apartment.

8. Plan for Utility Bills

Settle on a plan for who takes over utility bills. The new subletter may need to open utility accounts and take over everything to assume financial responsibility. But if you're moving back in after a few months, it may be easier to plan and ask your subletter to pay the bills on your behalf.

9. Screen Potential Subtenants

Potential subletters are often required to go through a screening process, though your landlord may take care of the process themselves. Otherwise, interview the subtenant yourself, hire a third party to run a credit check, ask for references, and confirm their employment.

10. Interview Potential Subtenants

Interviewing potential subtenants is an essential part of the process. You'll get an idea of their reliability, if they'll get along with your roommates, and set expectations. For example, if they love the nightlife, you should consider whether or not your neighbors and roommates are sensitive to noise.

Questions to Ask Subleasers

If you're not sure how to conduct an interview for subleases, here are some questions to consider:

  • When can you move in?
  • Do you have any pets?
  • Why are you moving?
  • Why do you need short-term housing?
  • Do you plan to host guests or throw parties?
  • Do you smoke?
  • Where do you work, and what is your income?
  • What is your communication style to resolve conflicts?

Ask relevant questions regarding the lease but avoid overly personal questions that could make a subletter uncomfortable.

Should You Sublet?

Before you draw up a sublet lease agreement, it's essential to consider the pros and cons of subletting.

The Pros of Subletting

There are many upsides to subletting that give you more flexibility and control over your situation.

  • You can potentially end your lease without paying a penalty.
  • You enjoy more flexibility to temporarily move out for a long trip or work before returning.
  • Someone else pays your rent while you're away.
  • Depending on your agreement, your subletter can water your plants, feed your fish, and take care of details around your apartment.

Make a list of subleasing pros to help make your decision.

The Cons of Subletting

There are also downsides to subletting that could change your mind about how to proceed:

  • Potential ease violations
  • Property damage
  • Could create conflict with your roommates
  • You're compromising your reputation if your subletter proves unreliable
  • The subletter could flake, even after they sign a lease
  • It's not always easy to find the right short-term tenant who's on the same page you are

Depending on your situation, you may not mind the downsides to subletting. However, make sure you understand each scenario and can deal with the consequences. For example, have an idea of a backup plan if your subletter suddenly stops paying rent.

Alternatives to Subletting

If you're unsure if subletting is right for you, there are other options to consider. For example, a short-term lease or month-to-month option provides more flexibility but may come at a higher price than your usual rent.

It's sometimes possible to skip subleasing altogether and break your lease without a penalty, but it could negatively impact your credit score or make renting in the future more difficult. Depending on your lease, an early termination fee may be small and worth the cost to avoid subleasing hassles.

Sublease Agreement Template

Your property manager should already have a sublease template that follows your local guidelines. If you need help creating a resource for yourself or just want to couple check everything, here's what to add to your sublease agreement:

  • Names of the sublessor and subtenant
  • Address of the subleased property
  • Duration of the sublease agreement
  • Rental amount, including due dates, late penalties, and who the tenant should pay it to
  • Security deposit information
  • Parking information
  • Guest policies
  • Noise policies
  • Smoking and drinking policies
  • Utility costs and payment information
  • Details regarding their living space and whether or not they're sharing a bathroom, room, or common area
  • A statement specifying that the rules of the master lease legally bind the subleaser
  • A statement that the unit is in good condition and the subletter assumes any repairs or damages.
  • Signatures of the parties involved
  • The date the sublease was signed

If your landlord doesn’t have a standard sublease agreement template, it’s wise to ask a lawyer to review it before signing anything.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know the answer to,"what is subletting," you can make an informed decision about whether or not it's the right choice for you. Subletting an apartment doesn't need to be difficult, but you do need to assess the pros and cons and make everything legal for a seamless experience.

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DAVINA WARD
Davina Ward is a contributing author at Apartment List and freelance writer specializing in real estate and digital marketing. She received her B. Read More
CONTENT ASSOCIATE
Tristian is a Content Marketing Associate at Apartment List, working to create and manage high quality content that is relevant to today's renters. Tristian has a BA in Marketing and European Management from the University of San Diego and EM Strasbourg Business School. Read More
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