Written by Avvo Staff

How to sublet a rental

Protect yourself when subletting an apartment

A sublet apartment is one in which the original renter lets another person rent the apartment for a period of time. It’s a good way to pay the rent on an apartment you won’t be using, or if you need to move before the lease agreement is up—if you have a new job out of town, for example.

But subletting an apartment can also be risky, because you’re still liable for anything that happens in it. Before you jump into subletting, you’ll want to be sure you’re allowed to do it and take steps to protect yourself.

Most states have laws covering certain rights and responsibilities for you and your landlord when subletting.

See what your lease says about subletting

Before you do anything, check your lease.

Many leases contain a clause stating you may not sublet your apartment without permission. Landlords use these clauses to have control over who lives in their buildings. It protects their interests because a subletter doesn’t have a contract with the landlord, only with you.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t sublet, only that you need your landlord’s ok. Subletting an apartment without permission can get both you and your subletter evicted.

Your lease may also state you can’t sublet at all. If so, check your state laws. In some states landlords can’t unreasonably refuse permission to sublet. They need a valid reason. If yours isn’t one of these states, you won’t be able to sublet unless you can get your landlord to make an exception.

Get your landlord’s written permission

No matter what your lease says, talk to your landlord. Even if you know subletting is allowed, letting your landlord know what you’re doing will help you maintain a good landlord-tenant relationship.

Get permission in writing. This protects you from your landlord forgetting or changing their mind about the sublet.

Start with a letter to your landlord stating the reason you want to sublet and for how long. Include as much other information as possible to make a strong case for yourself:

  • Your sublesee’s name

  • A copy of the sublease agreement you plan to use

  • Where you can be reached while you’re gone

  • A written statement from your roommates, if any, agreeing to the sublease

Depending on your state’s laws, your landlord then has a certain amount of time to give you a decision (often 30 days). Make sure you send the letter far enough in advance to allow time for a response. If they don’t respond in time or doesn’t give a valid reason, you may still be able to go ahead with the sublet.

Check your state’s laws or talk to a lawyer to find out your options. In some states the landlord needs a valid reason—like your sublessee has a bad credit history or a history of not paying rent—to deny your request. But if you’re in a rent-controlled apartment you may be bound by your landlord’s decision, no matter the reason.

Other laws may limit the amount of time you can sublet or to whom.

Always have a written sublet agreement

Having everything in writing protects your interests. It also makes clear what your expectations are for the subletter. You can make the sublease agreement form yourself, or use an agreement from your landlord.

Even if you’re renting to someone you know and trust, things can go wrong while you’re away. Don’t assume everything will be okay just because your subletter is a friend.

Include basic terms in this agreement:

  • The beginning and end dates of the sublet

  • Responsibilities of the subletter, including utility payments

  • Rent amount and due dates

  • Security deposit (this protects your security deposit in case the subletter damages anything)

Your subtenant should also agree to abide by the terms of your lease with your landlord, including things like pets or noise restrictions. Include a copy of your lease with the sublet agreement.

Take pictures and have the subletter fill out an inspection form to document the condition of the sublet apartment before you leave.

Remember, even if you’re not living in your rental unit, you are still bound by the terms of your lease. If either you or your subtenant violate any terms, you can both be evicted. Knowing how to sublet an apartment the right way can help protect everyone involved.

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