A.D. Thompson

We've all got big dreams and bucket lists, so when a great opportunity pops up – a phenomenal graduate program, a killer job, the chance to travel abroad – we just have to take it!

But if you're renting, it can put you in a tough spot. For some, the answer might be subletting an apartment.

What is subletting?

Subletting an apartment (also called “subleasing") is the “Inception" of an apartment rental. You lease your apartment to another tenant for the remainder of the lease, or at least a portion of it. And if you're considering it, do so thoughtfully – you're still the primary tenant responsible for the home.

Check your lease and talk to your landlord

Before moving forward, make sure your lease allows for subletting. If so, draft a formal letter informing your landlord of your intent at least 30 days prior to vacating the apartment. Include pertinent information like how long you intend to be gone and, if you have roommates, their written consent to sublet, as well.

Some states allow the landlord's final word on a sublessee's application and approval. Find out which laws apply in your state.

Find a sublessee

Got a close friend or family member who wants to step in and assume your place until your return? He or she is your best bet, because you know and trust them. If not, tap your network to see if any one you know and trust has someone to recommend. Perhaps even your landlord could be a source.

Even if you do know and trust this person, a legal subletting agreement is the way to go. This is not a casual arrangement. You and your landlord need to get a rental history, credit score and other information in your quest for the perfect candidate.

Think like a landlord

Because if you sublet, you are one. Draft a written agreement that defines the terms of the sublease (there are standard versions available on the internet to get you started). Get a security deposit in the event the sublessee causes damage to the apartment. Take photos to document the unit's condition before moving out. Have your tenant fill out an inspection form. And determine arrangements for utility responsibilities.

What's the rent?

Subletting is primarily at the convenience of the primary tenant, which means you may not get full price unless yours is the coolest building or neighborhood in town. Expect 70 to 80 percent and figure out how you'll make up the difference – because your lease (which requires full rent to the landlord) is still in effect.

And don't think you can use this as your next big money maker. It's illegal to charge more than the rent your landlord charges you.

Is subletting your apartment the best idea?

Perhaps not. If you're not married to the apartment, find out if your landlord will allow you to terminate your lease if you find a suitable replacement tenant. If you plan on coming back, subletting an apartment might be ideal, allowing you to avoid the hassle of finding another place to live.

And remember to stay in touch with your tenant and landlord to make sure it's all going as planned!



About The Author

A.D. Thompson

A.D. Thompson spent the first half of her 25-year career behind the editor’s desk, including time at Playgirl Magazine. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Orlando Sentinel and a host of other publications, print and online. Now a full-time freelancer, she is the Orlando expert for USA Today’s 10Best.com and writes about everything from Mickey Mouse to marijuana-based tourism with equal levels of enthusiasm – and occasional bouts of the munchies.