Sometimes, life circumstances require you to move out of your apartment before the end of your lease. You may be moving out of state for a new job, relocating from your college town due to coronavirus or even looking to get a feel of a different neighborhood for a short time period before committing. Regardless of the situation, subletting can help you save money while meeting the requirements of your lease.
Subletting, also called subleasing, is when a tenant rents their room or apartment out to someone else for a period of the lease.
While the lease is still under the original tenant’s name, the new tenant, also known as the sublessee, is responsible for paying rent and taking care of the property.
Many people consider subleasing an apartment if they are planning on being gone for a short period of time. Others want to completely move out of their apartment before their lease is up, so they decide to sublet the space. Whether you are looking to move out completely or just for the time being, subletting is an option to consider.
The legality of subletting your rental will depend on your state laws and the lease you signed. Some states require property managers to allow anyone the right to sublease, while others leave it to the property manager to decide.
If your state laws allow subleasing and your lease does not, inform your property manager of the state laws. If your lease allows subletting, read through the stipulations to ensure you follow the correct protocol for subletting your apartment.
There are risks associated with subletting. If the sublessee that you choose decides not to pay rent on time or damages the apartment, you will also be held liable. This means you need to ensure the person you pick to sublet your apartment is reliable and trustworthy.
If you aren’t willing to take on this risk, you may consider ending your lease early. While breaking a lease, could have some associated costs, these may be less than the cost of having a bad sublessee.
If you do decide that subletting is the right option for you, there are some steps you should follow. The rules will be different depending on your lease and state laws, but following these nine steps will ensure you are following the correct subletting guidelines.
Even if you can legally sublet your apartment without informing your property manager, it doesn't mean you should. Whether you're subletting your entire apartment or just one room, you need to get your landlord's approval if someone new is going to be occupying space in your unit.
The first thing you need to do is look over your lease agreement. Usually, there's a clause about subletting your apartment. If it says it's OK to sublet, does the owner need to give consent? Keep in mind, if you're renting a condo or co-op, it might be a bit more complicated to sublet your unit, as the condo board may need to approve the subletter.
If your lease states that you can't sublet, you can always ask your property manager, letting them know your reasoning for subletting. Sometimes, an explanation can go a long way. If your property manager says it's OK to sublet, remember to get this in writing and have a clause added to the lease agreement.
Beware, subletting without the property manager's approval is both dishonest and risky. You and your subletter could get kicked out.
Check your state laws to find out what your rights are to sublet your unit. For example, in Massachusetts, Maryland, Kentucky and Louisiana, you can sublet your apartment without getting approval, unless your lease outright states that you can't sublet.
In larger cities like Chicago and New York, you can sublet your apartment, even if the lease prohibits it and your property manager denies permission. As long as the current tenant can prove that the subtenant is equally qualified.
Then there's Arkansas. If you sublet without your landlord or property manager’s approval, you could get thrown in jail for up to six months or fined up to $500.
Being aware of your state’s law will help you ensure you’re following the correct rules, not just the ones your property manager has put in place.
After you've done your research, you need to find someone who can sublet your apartment. Luckily, there are plenty of platforms that will allow you to connect with a subletter.
Create a listing and make sure to take some nice, clean, uncluttered photos of your apartment with a detailed description of the length and how soon you need someone. Do not release your full address until you have a serious candidate.
Tip: Try Facebook groups specific to those who travel and may need a short-term place to stay.
Tip: Be sure to clean the apartment before taking photos to post on these sites.
Ask your friends, family and co-workers if they know anyone who is looking for a short-term lease. If you have a message board at work or a Slack channel, post your listing and get the word out.
Tip: If you want to reach a larger network of acquaintances, post the listing on your social media.
Once you post your apartment and start to get some interest, it might be a good idea to have an open house so you can meet potential tenants in person and answer any questions they may have.
You can also use this time to have people fill out an application and submit their information for a credit and background check.
Tip: If you are hesitant about having people come directly to your living space, offer a virtual tour on FaceTime or Zoom.
Are you still having a hard time finding a subletter? Consider offering a slight discount in rent. Reducing the rent by $100 or so could make your place more desirable.
It may still be cheaper than having to pay two months' rent upfront or other penalties your property manager may charge you.
Tip: Create a budget sheet to compare your options on a financial level.
Make sure to get the details of your sublet agreement in writing. The rental payments for subleases can vary, depending on your situation and how quickly you need to move. For instance, if rent is $1,700 a month, you may only charge $1,600 to get a renter quickly and opt to cover the $100 from your own pocket.
If this is the case, put it in writing and note the length of time you plan on doing this and how you will get the payment from the subletter or vice versa. If you’re no longer living in the area, you may choose to pay with a money transfer app rather than the traditional check.
A security deposit ensures that any damages to the home will be paid for. If you’re considering subleasing an apartment, you may want to request a security deposit to ensure you won’t be responsible for the damages the sublessee has caused.
Find out from your property manager whether they require the subletter to pay a separate security deposit to cover them during their stay. If you're requiring a separate security deposit from the subletter, make sure this is included in the sublease and state when it's due.
Another option is to have your property manager return your current deposit and request a new one from the subletter. This way they will be responsible for any future damages.
If your property manager doesn’t want to adjust the subletter’s agreement with a security deposit, you may decide to settle any damages when the lease is up. If this is the case, you should get it in writing how the costs will be split and take photos of the unit before you move out.
Have you decided on whether you plan on leaving all of your belongings in the apartment? Or will you leave the space completely empty?
Depending on the subletter, it may be easier to leave your stuff there and sell it to them or leave it for them to use with the understanding that it's yours and will go back to you when you return.
If you plan on returning, make an itemized checklist of what you will leave in the subtenant's care. You’ll also want to check to be sure that your renter’s insurance will still cover belongings that are left in someone else’s care.
Figure out how utilities will be covered and how they'll be paid.
If you plan on returning to the unit, you could work a set amount each month based on the previous few months of utilities. For example, if you know that Wi-Fi and electricity usually cost $100 a month, you could just work that amount into the rent.
If you're leaving for good, transferring the utilities in the subletter's name is best practice. This way you won’t be left with unpaid bills in your name.
Having roommates may make the situation a bit trickier, but nothing that can't be worked out. Make sure the subletter understands who is living in the apartment and what the current house rules are.
Have a meet and greet with the subletter and roommates before anyone signs any documents. Consider asking them potential roommate questions to get a good idea of their lifestyle.
Plan your move-in and move-out dates carefully, and make sure they’re listed on the sublease. This helps ensure how many days the subtenant is in the apartment and any prorated rent can be documented, as well.
Don't forget to schedule a time to walk through the apartment, making note of damages. As with a normal lease, you should clean the unit before the subletter moves in.
Your property manager should have a sublease agreement template that follows your state’s guidelines. If they aren’t providing you with this resource, be sure your agreement includes the following items:
The two most important aspects of subletting are getting your property manager's permission and working the details of the sublease, agreed upon by both parties, into an official document. If you can complete these items, the transition should be seamless. Now that you know how to sublease an apartment, your efforts can be spent on finding a new apartment that has the location and amenities you’re looking for.
For more advice on finding the perfect apartment, check out our apartment hunting advice.