Picture this: You have six months left on your lease for your apartment in Dallas, TX but just received a job offer at your dream company in a different city, leaving you no other option than to break your lease or pay both rents simultaneously. Maybe you’re taking the leap from renting to buying after finding your perfect home for sale in Portland, OR. Or, perhaps you’re traveling for a few months and don’t want to pay for the apartment you won’t be using.
Whatever your situation, subleasing your apartment can be a great option. But, how exactly do you sublease an apartment? This guide discusses what subleasing is, how to sublease your apartment, and where to advertise your apartment as a sublease and find a great tenant.
Subletting vs subleasing
Subletting and subleasing are both options you have as a renter if you aren’t going to be using your space for an extended period of time. And while many sometimes people use these terms interchangeably, subleasing and subletting are different for both the original tenant and the subtenant. Here’s the differences between subletting and subleasing.
What is subleasing?
Subleasing is when you rent all or part of your space to someone else without the assistance of your landlord. For example, if you live in a house and find someone to rent out one of the rooms for a few months, this is called subleasing because the renter is taking over just part of the lease. The renter pays you their portion of the rent, and you pay rent to the landlord for the entire house. You alone are still held entirely responsible for paying rent on the apartment and any repairs and maintenance as dictated in your original lease agreement.
What is subletting?
Subletting an apartment is when a new renter takes over your current lease directly from the landlord, taking you out of the equation. If the landlord agrees, the new tenant will take over your lease, sign a sublet agreement, and you will be released from any responsibilities regarding the upkeep and maintenance for the length of the sublet. For example, if you are currently renting an apartment in Miami, FL or a rental house in Pittsburgh, PA, and decide you want to rent your entire apartment to someone, your landlord can sublet it if they so choose. Then, the person taking over your lease will pay rent directly to your landlord.
Legal responsibilities when subleasing and subletting
As mentioned above, the legal responsibility for the apartment or house is different for subleasing and subletting. If you’re subleasing a room or space to someone, you’re still legally responsible to your landlord for any costs and damages to the space. If your sublessee doesn’t pay their rent to you for a month, it’s still you’re legal and financial responsibility to pay the landlord, even though your sublessee didn’t hold up their end of the deal. With subletting, the person moving into your apartment will be legally responsible for damages and costs – not you.
How does a sublease work?
A sublease allows you to vacate your apartment without breaking your lease agreement. As the current renter, you are the tenant or the sublessor, while the person you sublease to is called the subtenant or sublessee. If you find a reliable subtenant, you don’t have to continue paying rent for the property once you move out. However, you’ll have to work with your landlord if you decide you want to pursue either of these options. They may be willing to work with you or have specific rules already established about subletting and subleasing your apartment.
Should you sublease your apartment? 5 things to consider about the lease agreement
Before you decide to sublease an apartment, consider the following:
1. What your landlord, renters insurance policy, and local laws allow
Be sure to check that you are allowed to sublease your apartment, and research your landlord’s responsibilities when it comes to having a subtenant. Most landlords have certain terms and conditions for how to sublease your apartment – if they allow it.
2. Breaking your lease vs subleasing
If you can afford to pay off the rest of your lease, that may be a better option. Paying off a lease to break it early may be easier than finding a reliable subtenant, especially if your lease will expire soon.
3. How much time you have left on your lease agreement
If you only have a couple of months left on your lease, it may be challenging to find a subtenant in time.
4. Whether you will leave your apartment furnished or unfurnished
You may be able to charge a subtenant more if you leave your apartment furnished for them. A furnished apartment may be more attractive to potential subtenants too, especially if they only plan on being in the area for a short time.
5. Whether you will need access to the apartment after you leave
If you require access to your apartment occasionally to return certain furniture or boxes, for example, you will need to find a subtenant who is comfortable with you accessing the apartment. This is also something you can write into your sublease agreement.
6 steps on how to sublease your apartment
So, you’ve decided to sublease your apartment. What are the next steps? Subleasing may look different for each person since rules vary based on where you live, but these are the steps you shouldn’t skip, no matter what:
Do your research
Before you even consider subleasing your apartment, look into any state or local laws about subleasing. Read your current lease agreement to check whether or not you can sublease your apartment and read the terms and conditions that may apply to your sublease. Lastly, check your renter’s insurance policy to see what your insurance company requires regarding subleases.
Decide whether you want a short- or long-term sublease
Short-term subleases are month-to-month or shorter than six months. Short-term sublessees usually want a furnished apartment and may be in a state of transition. Meanwhile, long-term subleases are six months or longer, and are great for tenants who may want greater stability. If you have a short-term sublessee, you may want to charge them a flat rate for utilities. But if you have a long-term sublessee, they should pay utilities in their name so you don’t get stuck with unpaid bills.
Notify your property manager in writing of your intention to find a subtenant
Almost all properties require that you notify your property manager in writing of your intention to find a subtenant. Depending on where you live, your property may require a certain number of days’ notice and may ask that notice is given a particular way, such as on paper or via email.
Find a subtenant
Finding a subtenant for a sublease can be difficult, especially if your rental is short-term. Get started on finding a subtenant early to give yourself plenty of time to advertise, interview, and screen the potential subtenant. If you rent a room on a room-by-room sublease, include any roommates in your search to find a sublessee. Your roommates will probably want a say in who they end up living with, and they may be able to help you find a great subtenant.
Schedule a walkthrough with your landlord
Once you find a sublessee, be sure to schedule a walkthrough with your landlord so they can see the state of the property and write that in your sublease agreement before your sublessee moves in. Then, if your sublessee damages the room, they will be held responsible for the damage.
Sign an agreement and take a security deposit
Make sure you and your subtenant sign a sublease agreement and that you take a security deposit should they cause any damage to the apartment. Consider creating a copy of the signed agreement for your landlord to keep them in the loop.
Sublease agreement template
The information you need to have in your agreement may vary, and you may need to have it approved by your landlord, but at a minimum, you should include the following:
- Address and description of the property you are subleasing.
- Your name and contact information, including your new address.
- Your subtenant’s name and their new address (the address of the apartment they are subleasing from you).
- Start and end dates of the sublease.
- Terms & conditions of the lease you originally signed when you moved in.
- Monthly rent amount and pay schedule.
- How much apartment utilities are and how they will be paid.
- If you are subleasing a room, include which spaces the sublessee can use.
- Furniture that you will leave in the apartment.
- Furniture that you will want back at the end of the sublease.
- Any current damage to the apartment and who will be held financially responsible for future damage.
- Signature of both the tenant and the subtenant.
- Date you both signed the agreement.
How do you find a good sublessee?
Find online advertising opportunities
You can advertise your sublease in a lot of different places. Oftentimes, it is best to advertise by word-of-mouth or referrals from friends, so the sublessee is more likely to be reliable when paying rent or communicating any problems with the building to you.
If you don’t have the time to advertise by word of mouth, or you don’t know anyone who might want your room, there are plenty of other ways to advertise your apartment. Landlords often have access to online platforms where they can list your apartment. Or, you can promote via social media or online marketplaces. Just make sure to vet your potential sublessees carefully.
What to look for in a subtenant
There are some things almost every tenant looks for in a sublessee. First, you want someone who is reliable and has steady employment. Otherwise, you may get stuck paying rent for them. You also want to find someone respectful of the space and others around them so that they don’t cause damage to your apartment or break quiet hours. Be sure to hold your sublessee to the same income requirements you had when you signed your lease. It is common for tenants or landlords to run background, employment, and reference checks for potential sublessees.
Other things you may look for in a sublessee vary depending on where you live. Here is a short list of things you may want to screen your sublessee for before they move in:
- Number of occupants
- Length of sublease they are looking for
- Length of employment
- Reason for moving
- Credit and background check (you will need written consent from your subtenant to run this legally)
Know your state’s subleasing laws
It is also important to research what your state allows regarding subleasing. For example, in California, no more than two people per bedroom plus one additional person can live on any property. So, if you have a one-bedroom home in California, you can sublease it to no more than three people.
Meanwhile, most states require that the tenant get their property manager or landlord’s permission to sublease their apartment. Be sure to check your state subleasing laws before you get started.
When is subleasing illegal?
Subleasing can be illegal depending on your state laws and the policies at the property you want to sublease. In some cases, your lease may not mention subleasing at all. In this situation, you can assume that subleasing is legal.
There are some situations in which subleasing is almost always illegal. Most properties require you to provide notice in writing that someone else will be subleasing your room or apartment. If you don’t give your property notice and they find out that someone else is living in your apartment, it is usually considered illegal. When you screen sublease candidates, make sure you follow fair housing laws. These laws prohibit discrimination against potential subtenants due to their race, color, national origin, or other protected characteristics.
How does renter’s insurance work with subleasing?
Renter’s insurance can get a little complicated with subleasing. But if you communicate with your insurance company about your situation, they will be able to help you stay protected and follow the rules.
Renter’s insurance covers your personal property at the address registered on your insurance policy. So, if you sublease your furnished apartment to someone else who damages a couch or piece of furniture, the odds are good that your insurance company will reimburse you. However, you should check that your insurance will still cover this even if you are voluntarily subleasing your property to someone else. Your renter’s insurance also provides liability coverage on or off your property, so if you damage someone else’s property, your insurance will likely reimburse you regardless of where you are.
In general, it is best that you maintain your renter’s insurance policy for your old address and buy a new one for your new address to protect your property. And, whoever you sublease to should also get their own policy for the subleased property.
Can a sublessee break a sublease agreement?
Whether or not a sublessee can break a sublease agreement depends on the terms and conditions of the original lease the tenant signed and the terms of the sublease agreement. Unless you say otherwise, your sublessee can break the sublease according to the terms in the original lease you signed.
Subleasing is an excellent alternative to breaking your lease, but like everything else, it comes with its own pros and cons. But with a bit of know-how, you can have a great experience with a subtenant.
Redfin does not provide legal, tax, or financial advice. This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice from a licensed attorney, tax professional, or financial advisor.