Jen Jackowski
sublet apartment

Subletting is a unique renting situation in that you'll only be in the apartment for a few months instead of the whole lease term. As such, the etiquette and rules for subletting are different than signing a lease for a whole year.

Whether you'll only be in town for a short period or just want to get a taste of the neighborhood before committing, there are plenty of reasons to sublet. And if you're going that route, you might need some pointers. So, I've compiled this list of tips for subletting:

Expect Documents

Many people try to go under the table or behind a landlord's back when subletting, but this is both dishonest and risky. If you didn't sign any paperwork giving you legal permission to stay, you could be kicked out. Plus, if the actual tenant gets in trouble, you will too. Never trust someone's word, only their printed signature.

You should expect to fill out an application and subletting form, so if the person from whom you're renting doesn't ask for these things, find someone else! Additionally, if you have a signed subleasing form, you don't have to worry about contacting the landlord for repairs, as he or she will know you live there– not being legally sheltered is a scary thing, my friends.

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Get Your Dates Straight

Plan your move-in and move-out dates carefully to ensure you and the permanent tenant don't end up sharing a room. Get clear dates in writing from the original renter– these should be included in your sublet form.

Also, schedule time to walk through the apartment, making note of damages. As with a normal lease, you may be expected to clean the unit before you leave. In fact, some renters and landlords require subletters to pay a separate security deposit covering their stay. Find out from the landlord or renter whether this applies to you.

Get All Deals in Writing

Sometimes, renters advertise a lower rental price and promise to pay the difference to ensure they get a subletter quickly. For instance, he or she might pay $700 a month, but only ask you to cover $600.

If the renter says he or she will pay for part of the rent, make sure he or she puts it in writing. Otherwise, this individual could stop paying the agreed-upon amount, leaving you with a bill that's outside of your budget.

This is a perfect example of why signing a sublet agreement is necessary, even though you aren't staying in the unit very long.

Know What Stays and What Goes

Will the current tenant leave all of his or her belongings in the apartment? Or will the room be completely empty? It depends on his or her situation. Renters who plan to return to the unit may leave their big furniture in the apartment. Those looking to get out of the lease early may take all their stuff with them.

Either way, know what will be left in the apartment and what won't. That way, you can plan which of your belongings you'll need to move into the apartment– you don't want to move a sofa up the stairs just to see one already sitting in the living room.

Plan for Utilities

While you stay in this apartment, you'll have to pay utilities– nothing new there! However, how you do this will be up to you and the original renter.

You might pay him or her for utilities or opt to switch the accounts to your name. That way, you get the bills and ensure you pay exactly what's due. And on time too!

Are the Roommates Staying?

Discover whether you'll have free reign over the entire apartment, or if you're renting a single room and sharing the unit with roommates. Just because the person from whom you're subletting won't be there doesn't mean the roommates won't.

If the sublet does come with roomies, meet them before you sign any documents. These people might be total strangers, and you want to ensure you're comfortable with living with them– even if it's only for a short period of time.

Also, meeting the roommates will make them more comfortable. In college, my roommate subleased her room for the summer. I planned to stay in the apartment one weekend before school started to move a few things in, but I didn't spend the night– I was too put off by the subletter who didn't seem to realize I also lived there.

If my roomie had communicated with the subletter about the roommate situation better, the whole situation wouldn't have been so uncomfortable.

Be a Good Tenant

While you might not be around for very long, you should still take care of the space like you own it. From cleaning to treating furniture with respect, don't leave a mess for the original renter to come home to. After all, if you did pay a deposit, making a mess means you won't get your money back.

Subletting can be the ideal renting scenario for your particular situation, and these tips will make the process go more smoothly.

Photo by Patrick Perkins on Unsplash

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