Life’s circumstances can sometimes force you to move out of your apartment before your lease expires. You probably moved in without getting a feel of the neighborhood and now would like to relocate to a different part of the area Or probably the coronavirus forced you to temporarily move out of your college town.
Or, if you are like most people, you’re searching for professional movers to move you to another part of the country after landing a job or going to look for better opportunities out of state.
Whichever the case, subletting is one of the best workarounds to the conundrum you find yourself in – you have a lease yet to expire, but you need to move out now.
Also known as subleasing, subletting involves a tenant renting out their room or apartment to another person for the duration left in the lease. This person – referred to as the sub-lessee or subtenant – will take over the responsibility of rent and taking care of the property.
It’s a great way to help you save money without violating the requirements of your lease, although that last part will depend on which state you’re in (See Part #1 below).
Here’s what you need to know when planning to sublet an apartment.
- Check what the local laws state
Depending on where you live, your right to sublet might be stipulated in your lease or guided by state law.
In Louisiana, Kentucky, Iowa, Maryland and Massachusetts, for example, you don’t have to have the permission of your landlord to sublet your apartment according to state law – unless your lease specifically prohibits it.
In New York and Chicago, you have carte blanche to sublet no matter what. Even if your lease clearly states against or your landlord forbids you from subletting, the law allows you to sublet as long as the sub-lessee is as qualified as you. So, the first step towards subletting your apartment is consulting your state laws to know where you stand.
2. Get your landlord’s approval
While subleasing might not be prohibited in your state, it is important to notify your landlord or property manager of your plans to sublet the apartment. They need to know what’s going on. Even in cases where your landlord forbids transferring a lease, explaining your reasons can sometimes go a long way.
3. Choose a qualified sub-lessee
Even when you sublet, you are still liable for the rent payments as you’re the original leaseholder on paper.
For this reason, it is important to screen your subtenants well to make sure the person you’re handing the keys over to is a responsible individual who will not put you in a pickle you’d rather not find yourself in.
In addition to checking their income and ability to meet their monthly obligation, we also recommend checking the sub-lessee’s background to be sure you won’t be putting your roommates (if you have any), neighbors, or landlord at risk.
4. Request a rent deposit from your subtenant
Potential tenants come in every stripe – some have high intent and others are well, flaky. When you’re subletting your apartment, you’re basically in charge of managing your rental, and that starts with figuring out how to weed out the reliable tenants from the difficult ones. A good way to know someone is serious enough when they apply for your apartment is to ask them for a deposit of good faith on the rent.
This could be 10 percent of the monthly rent or an entire month’s advance payment. Hold this money in escrow until you’ve signed the sublease and transferred the keys to your tenant.
5. Collect and store a security deposit
Just as you’re required to pay a security deposit before renting, asking the subtenant for a security deposit can protect the apartment or any belongings you leave in it against any potential damages. State laws differ in terms of accepting and holding security deposits, so consult yours to find out what they stipulate. Go one further and do an apartment inspection with the tenant prior to move-in and have them sign off on it.
6. Complete a sublet agreement
As with every contract or anything involving money, a lease between you and the sub-lessee needs to be legally binding. You can safeguard yourself from any potential disagreements by laying out the ground rules from the start. The bare minimum provisions in your agreement should lay out the following terms:
- Start date of the lease
- End date
- Monthly rent
- Average cost of utilities and who will be making these payments
- Recourse to take if the sub-lessee stops paying the rent
- What to do if someone plans to shorten or extend the lease duration
7. Set up rent payments
The last thing you need is to spend the first week of every month chasing someone for rent. This is why we cannot overemphasize the importance of vetting enough. Before the subtenant moves in, agree on a process for rent payment and put it in writing in the subleasing agreement that you both sign.