3 Questions to Ask When Subletting

 Every so often renters need to get out of a rental contract early or enter into lease terms that are shorter than the normal length. Subleasing is a common solution; however, there are potential pitfalls if it isn’t done properly. Here are some of the basic questions and suggestions around subletting from the perspective of the “Subletter” and the “Subleasee.”

1.     Can I sublet?

a.     Will your landlord or building allow it?

Check your lease to see if it's allowed; if it does not stipulate, then check with your landlord. You will have to work with your landlord to find a tenant unless your landlord gives you complete autonomy in sourcing candidates.

b.     Will your other roommates allow it?

If you have roommates, it's more than just common courtesy to ask if they are alright with this arrangement. They will have to live with this person and should be consulted – if not heavily involved – in the process. Consider including them when you create your listing description as well as during candidate interviews.

c.     What about Airbnb?

Like subletting, not only will your landlord have stipulations around what they want on their property, but they are also required to follow state regulations around vacation and short-term rentals. Be sure to have the discussion and work with your landlord should you wish to engage in an Airbnb situation. 

2.     How do I find and pick the right tenant/apartment?

a.     Asking for references, a permanent address

It may seem like common sense, but evaluate the person who inquires about the room. State what gender, age range, pets/no pets, car, etc. for the types of applicants you feel comfortable living with. You should always keep in mind the standards your landlord keeps for their properties by putting most applicants through a background check and credit check to assure payments are made on time. It also very common for landlords in NYC to require subletters to complete these checks before being accepted as a subletter. You could be taking a considerable risk by not taking the time to find a trustworthy subletter. On the other hand, as a subletter, if you are not asked these questions you might consider finding an apartment with a more thorough roommate to ensure that you are protected and valued.

b.     Posting your space

There are a slew of sites you can post on, and each will help you increase your chances of finding an appropriate subletter, but remember to write a clear and simple write-up of your apartment space and accurate move-in and move-out dates. Having definitive move-in and move-out dates are very important for both parties. Also, give pertinent site details such as if pets are allowed, if there is parking, how many bathrooms there are, if there are other roommates, etc.

c.     To meet in person somewhere neutral – apartment viewing

After you have responded to your most likely responses and narrowed down your list of potentials, don’t forget the last crucial step. Like a job interview, meeting in person (or via facetime, skype, etc.) is very helpful in making everyone feel more comfortable for a variety of reasons. If you can, give (or take) a property tour, meet the roommates, ask questions, and use that natural gut instinct we all have to make sure this person seems responsible.

3.     What kind of legal security can I expect?

Use a site with a premade lease agreement at the very least. Always, always, always, sign some kind of written agreement! Not only does the sublease protect the landlord and property, but it protects the tenant if rent is not paid on time, and the subletter if they are forced to move out early to name just a few reasons. Without a documented sublease there is no legal recourse for damages and no way to hold people accountable for their side of the agreement.

a.     Security deposit

Most tenants are expected to place a security deposit, and subletters are no different. Once the sublease is signed, consider asking for a month’s rent, or some form of deposit to ensure rent is set and this may be used for damages as well. It may also be a requirement of your landlord for a subletter to pay a security deposit so be sure to check in with them beforehand. It might be helpful to take a walk through of the apartment with pictures as the subletter or subleasee to show the property condition at the time of the hand-off.

Owen M. McCafferty II