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When does a sublease in Los Angeles become an assignment?

West Los Angeles, CA |

I've been in a sublease for nearly 4 years. From what I've read, I understand that a sublease is temporary, while assignments are more permanent. My sublease, given the fact that I've lived in the unit for nearly 4 years, has not been temporary. My sublandlord is currently charging me $812.00 (my "share" of the rent, as I have a roommate in the second bedroom) which, per the agreement I signed in 2010, included utilities. She has since made me responsible for paying utilities, and so I would like to pay her just the rent amount, which would be $645.00 (actual rent alone for 2 bed/1 bath is $1290.00). I cannot afford rent and separate utilities unless I pay her only the $645.00. Can anyone offer any insight? I'm currently trying to find out of it is rent controlled, which I believe it is.

Attorney Answers 3


A sublease happens when a tenant leases to a third party. The third party pays rent to the tenant who, in turn pays rent to the landlord. You end up with two relationships: landlord/tenant and tenant/subtenant. If the subtenant has problems with the space, then he deals with the original tenant.

An assignment happens when the tenant signs away their rights and responsibilities to a third party for the remainder of the original lease. In this case, the third party deals directly with the landlord and the original tenant is pretty much out of the picture. However, if the third party tenant defaults on the lease, then the original tenant remains liable for the remainder of the lease and the landlord can sue the original tenant.

Subleases are typically short term but do not become an assignment without an additional agreement. It seems like you've been a good tenant by keeping your sublandlord out of trouble with the landlord. Check in with the county to see if you live in a rent controlled area. If so, even the sublandlord must comply with the local rules regarding affordable housing.

I suggest talking with a landlord/tenant attorney in your area to explore your rights to see if there are any violations. There are more than a few attorneys out there who could give you a free initial consultation.

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This is not a GP question... I'll fix it.

I am an Attorney-at-Law, licensed to practice law only in the state of California. Unless we have both signed a formal retainer agreement, you are not my client, and my discussion of issues does not constitute legal advice. Opinions expressed herein are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the opinions of those who hold other opinions.

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A sublease can't become an assignment. Contact the Los Angeles Housing Department to figure out if you're under rent control.

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