Subletting can be a good way to offset rental and leasing costs, while also making use of a space that would otherwise go to waste. It’s not necessarily a situation that renters should jump into without lots of consideration and due diligence, though. If you’re thinking about subletting your space, what steps do you need to take first? We spoke with John Keramaris, landlord tenant attorney at Keramaris & Keramaris, to find out.
1. Look for a subletting clause.
First things first, Keramaris advises taking a second look at your lease. “Review any written lease agreement you have with your landlord and locate any subletting clause or paragraph. Most of the time, subletting is prohibited without express written consent from your landlord.” If it’s not expressly stated, however, it doesn’t mean it’s completely out of the question. Talk to a real estate attorney in your area.
2. Contact your landlord.
“Explain to them, in a respectful way, that you would like to sublet your apartment,” Keramaris explains. If you have a written lease or rental agreement, address whether the lease requires express written consent from your landlord OR whether the lease makes no mention of any sublet.
Keramaris adds, “Assure your landlord that whomever you sublet to will be vetted by you, and under no circumstances will you allow a subtenant to move into the apartment without the landlord’s approval.”
3. Post an ad.
Next, Keramaris suggests posting an ad on Craigslist under “sublet/temporary” that includes the following:
- The rental price
- The lease term (period of time)
- Pictures of the apartment
- List of amenities
- What furniture, if any, will be included with the rental
“In posting your ad do not, under any circumstances, include any language which restricts the potential subtenant based on their sex, age, race, religion or whether they have children,” Keramaris warns.
4. Create a rental application.
You can make an application with a service like AppFolio.com, then “direct all potential subtenants to fill out the application,” Keramaris suggests. “Carefully screen each tenant’s credit history and criminal background.”
5. Engage your landlord in the selection process.
Make sure your landlord is involved in this process. Keramaris suggests, “Review applications together through email or over the phone. Document this process thoroughly. Know that your landlord cannot arbitrarily deny you the right to sublet to a similarly situated individual. At common law this is referred to as ‘unreasonable restraint on alienation.’ After selecting a mutually agreeable subtenant, have your landlord approve the subtenant in writing.”
6. Have the subtenant sign a sublet agreement.
“There are multitudes of agreements available online which do this,” Keramaris notes.
Even though the sublet agreement is signed, it doesn’t mean you’re through with your lease. Keramaris warns, “You and your subtenant will be held ‘jointly and severally liable’ under the original lease agreement. What this means is that if your subtenant doesn’t pay the rent or otherwise violates the terms of the first lease agreement you have with your landlord, you will be on the hook. Make no mistake: Subletting your apartment will not simply allow you to walk away from the situation.”
He adds, “Each jurisdiction has different laws. There are two major court decisions — one in South Carolina, the other in Washington state — which impose no duty on the landlord to be reasonable throughout this process. However, under most circumstances landlords have little incentive to be overly difficult through this process so long as you are open about your situation and maintain communication.”