A rental lease is more than just a formal agreement between you and your landlord. It’s actually a legal contract that holds you responsible for the entire term, no matter what.
Contrary to popular belief, subleasing your apartment doesn’t release you from this contract. You will still be responsible, even if the subtenant’s actions are out of your fault or control. Because of this, navigating how to sublet a rental can be scary.
However, if you take the necessary precautions, you can minimize the risks. Read on for our ultimate guide on subleasing an apartment.
Review Your Lease Terms
When you sign a lease, this grants you (and only you) access to the rental property. Subletting your apartment is not a given and may not be allowed in the terms of your lease.
Review your lease carefully and look for a clause on subletting apartments. Most landlords require approval at the very least.
If you cannot find anything specific in your lease, this does not give you the green light towards subletting your apartment on your own. You should still check with your landlord and see if it’s allowed.
Research Local Laws
In some states, such as Maryland and Kentucky, subleasing an apartment is allowed without the landlord’s approval unless your lease states otherwise.
New York and Chicago, on the other hand, allow it in all cases, even if your landlord tries to refuse.
Find out what your options are by researching the specific subleasing laws of your state.
Get Your Landlord’s Approval
Especially in cases where you’re subleasing an apartment in its entirety, your landlord is likely to want to be involved.
If you are only looking for how to sublet a room in the residence, they may let you proceed with little or no problems. Either way, it’s import to notify your landlord that you’re planning on subletting your apartment.
All landlords are different. If yours is hesitant about subleasing an apartment, here is a good strategy for building your case:
- Do your homework. Know what your new responsibilities will be as the new landlord for your subtenant. Research your lease and local laws for subleasing an apartment. Demonstrate that you are prepared to take everything on.
- Volunteer to help however you can. Some landlords see subleasing an apartment as a whole new workload for them. Offer to assist them in managing your sublet.
- Show you’re serious about finding a good subtenant. Let them know you will be strictly screening all applicants and are determined to find the right fit.
- Stay in touch throughout the process. It’s important that you demonstrate your reliability and consideration by remaining highly accessible if your landlord needs to contact you. You should also keep them updated about how it’s going with the subtenant throughout the remainder of the lease.
Find the Right Subtenant
When subleasing an apartment, finding someone is you already know and trust is the best case scenario. This will provide assurance to both you and your landlord that the subletting process will run smoothly.
If you don’t know of anybody looking for a lease, you can still find the right subtenant. Here are some steps to take:
- Advertise that you’re subletting your apartment on social media.
- Post a listing on Craigslist that discusses features, benefits, and who your ideal subletter would be.
- Use word-of-mouth and tell everyone you know that you’re subleasing an apartment.
- If you have roommates, ask them to help you find candidates.
Even if you’re subleasing an apartment to someone you’re acquainted with, be careful. They may not be the best applicant for the position. The wrong subtenant can break the rules of your lease, destroy the property, or disappear altogether.
It’s incredibly beneficial to screen any applicants that you don’t personally know and trust. Here are some tips on how to sublet with the proper screening:
- Ask applicants for a background check. This will ensure they don’t have any suspicious criminal history. If anything comes up, use your best judgment to decide if this impacts their character.
- Request a credit check. By looking at how they handle personal finances, you can get a better idea of their reliability.
- Research the applicant’s rental history. Stay away from subtenants who’ve had evictions or spotty payment tendencies.
- Ask the applicant for references. These should be professional, such as job contacts and past landlords.
- Interview the applicant thoroughly. Get a sense of their personality and authenticity.
- Trust your intuition. Don’t ignore your gut feeling. If someone seems sketchy to you, don’t proceed with subletting an apartment to them.
For more ideas, check out our post on how to find a good tenant.
Get Approval From Your Roommates
If you are subletting your room in a property that you share with roommates, it’s important to keep them involved. Don’t blindside them with your sublet plans without giving them a chance to intervene.
The best practice is to involve your roommates in your subtenant screenings. That way, you’ll have more opinions and a better chance of finding someone they’ll like.
At the very least, make sure your roommates meet the person to whom you plan on subletting your apartment. Since they are the ones who will live with this new person, it’s essential to ensure they are okay with everything.
Subleasing an Apartment Puts You in Charge
Are you prepared to act as a landlord for the duration of your lease? By subletting your apartment, you are essentially taking over these responsibilities.
In most cases, the subletter will be paying their rent to you. You will then pass it on to your landlord. If your subletter doesn’t pay, that’s on you.
If you think you’re ready, here are some things to consider:
- Can you write a lease agreement?
- Are you familiar with rental terminology and lease language?
- Do you know who to contact for repairs to the property?
- Are you familiar with eviction processes in case you need to evict your subtenant?
In some cases, your landlord might prefer to be the main point of contact for your sublet. This enables you to share the responsibilities of subletting your apartment, which is the best case scenario.
When approaching your landlord, ask them if they would mind being the direct contact for your sublet. Try to persuade them if you can. A good angle to approach it from is by reminding them that it’s their property and it’s best to have them stay involved when a new person moves in.
Related: The Ultimate Guide to Writing A Rental Application Form
Ask for a Deposit
When you’re subleasing an apartment, you’ll still be responsible for any damages that occur for the duration of your lease. This is why you should ask for a security deposit from your subletter.
A security deposit is typically one month’s rent and should cover potential damages to the property itself or any belongings you may be keeping in it.
It’s also important to conduct a property inspection beforehand and get the subtenant to sign it before moving in. This will establish liability in the future if any damages occur.
Use an escrow to hold the deposit until your lease is up. Be sure to review local laws and stay compliant.
Write Up a Sublet Agreement
Don’t proceed with subleasing an apartment on a verbal agreement alone. You need to have your terms clearly established in writing.
It’s paramount to have a legally binding contract between yourself and your subtenant. This will protect you from any potential issues or disagreements.
At a minimum, your contract should address the following:
- Lease beginning and end date
- Utility costs and who is responsible for them
- How to extend the lease or shorten it
- What happens if the subtenant doesn’t pay the rent
Set Up a Rent Payment Plan
In most scenarios while subleasing an apartment, you will be collecting the rent money from your subtenant. You’re not going to want to hunt them down or deal with varying payment dates.
When working out how to sublease your apartment to your new subtenant, establish a solid payment process and add that to your subletting contract. That way, there is no confusion regarding how or when the subtenant will get the rent payments to you.
Payment apps such as Paypal can be a great option for setting up a payment plan.
The most important thing to take away here is this: if you are forbidden from subletting your apartment, don’t even try. You don’t want to get yourself into a bad situation that could hurt your potential of renting in the future.
Subleasing an apartment has risks. It’s your responsibility to find a trustworthy subtenant who will play by the rules, pay everything on time, and respect the property. If they don’t, you will be the one who has to deal with the aftermath.
Be mindful of these risks and be prepared for your landlord to come after you for any financial discrepancies caused by your subtenant. By staying compliant and using thorough judgment, you can greatly improve your chances of a pain-free subletting process.