How to Sublet an Apartment
Leaving your apartment for a few months or longer? Check out these steps for how to sublet an apartment.
- In a sublet, a renter leases their apartment to a subtenant.
- If you're leaving your apartment for good, you may have other options, like reletting your apartment.
- You can vet new subtenants by conducting a credit check and calling their references.
You've finally settled into apartment living. But now you're leaving town — and not just for a long weekend. Maybe you landed a summer internship, or you're studying abroad. If you won't be living in your apartment for over a month, you might consider subletting — renting out the apartment you rent.
Subletting your apartment could help you save money. It also lets you keep your apartment for when you return. However, it involves planning, coordination, and some risk. Keep reading to learn the steps of subletting your apartment and tips for finding the right tenant.
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What Is Subletting?
Sometimes, subletting means adding someone new to the lease. In this case, your name is still on the lease for the remainder of its term. If your subtenant doesn't pay rent, you need to cover the cost. If they cause damage or break the rules, you may be subject to fees.
However, subletting could also refer to "reletting." When you relet an apartment, your landlord ends your lease and immediately starts one with the new tenant.
"The second option is always preferable for a tenant looking to leave a lease early, as it absolves the former tenant of any responsibility for the actions of the new tenant," real estate broker Peter LoPresti Paniagua said.
It's important to find out how your local laws define real estate terms. LoPresti Paniagua advises students to consult with their landlord or a trusted realtor to understand their options.
6 Steps to Sublet an Apartment
If you're thinking about subletting your apartment, start communicating with your roommates and landlord sooner rather than later. Find the steps for subletting your apartment below. Remember, everyone's situation is different. Make sure you know your local laws and the details of your lease.
1. Know Your Rights — and Your Current Lease
Some states have laws about subletting. These laws dictate how much notice you need to give the property owner and if you need their written permission.
Some state tenant laws say you're allowed to sublet if your lease allows it. So, re-read your lease. Find out:
- If you face fees for subletting your apartment
- If you face fees for ending your lease early
- If you need your landlord's written consent
Additionally, state laws may allow you to break your lease without fees if you experience uninhabitable conditions, such as serious plumbing or electricity problems, safety threats, or invasions of privacy.
2. Decide Between Subletting and Ending the Lease
If you don't plan on returning to your apartment, and your landlord agrees to it, a relet might be your best option.
Let's say you and your landlord cannot come to a relet agreement. In that case, you could sublet your apartment or break your lease. Breaking your lease comes with consequences.
"At a minimum, a tenant breaking a lease should expect to forfeit any security deposit the landlord holds," LoPresti Paniagua said. "Where I practice … the landlord is legally allowed to sue for any remaining months on the lease that the tenant does not pay for."
However, LoPresti Paniagua said that disagreements rarely escalate to that level if you practice clear, earnest communication with your landlord.
3. Tell Your Landlord Your Plan
"If you form a plan together with your landlord, you will maximize your chances of having a smooth transition process," LoPresti Paniagua said.
LoPresti Paniagua said to remember your landlord's goals, too. They're trying to minimize the time they spend on the process, decrease risk by finding a responsible tenant, and fill their rental unit quickly.
Approach your landlord with details about when you need to move and how you plan to find a new tenant.
4. Find a Subtenant
You can find someone to sublet your apartment by posting on major websites like Sublet.com. You can also start local. Search for classmates who are looking for a short-term rental. Start by asking your friends and roommates if they know anyone who can fill your spot.
Some schools have online marketplaces (like Craigslist for your school), where students can advertise used books or furniture for sale along with apartments and sublets for rent. You may find online marketplaces local to your city or neighborhood on Facebook. It's free to post your listing on these sites.
5. Negotiate the Price and Terms
Once you have someone interested in subletting your apartment, it's time to confirm their interest and the terms of the sublet agreement. You might show them around the apartment or introduce them to your roommates.
Come to a verbal agreement on how much rent the subtenant will owe and whom they pay — you or the land manager. You should also discuss how and how much you expect the subtenant to pay for utilities.
6. Draft a Sublet Agreement
Get your agreement in writing. This is crucial, even if you're subletting to a friend. A written, signed agreement helps protect you if your subtenant fails to follow the lease terms.
You can find templated sublet agreements for your state online. These will include the basics, like the rent, due date, and commitment length.
- Details About Rent and Utilities: Make it clear whether your subtenant needs to pay you, the landlord, or a roommate.
- Furnishing Included: Will you leave your bed or other furniture? If so, list what's included and what you expect to stay put for your return.
- Rules of Your Apartment: Are parties allowed? What about pets?
- What Happens in the Case of Damage: Will your subtenant need to pay for any damage they cause?
Tips for Finding a Good Subtenant
When you're seeking a subtenant, think like a landlord.
LoPresti Paniagua says that landlords look for these qualities in potential tenants:
- A high credit score
- A relatively clean criminal background check
- A combined monthly income of all tenants or cosigners that's at least three times one month's rent
"I recommend vetting them with an online criminal background check as well as a credit check. It should cost between $35 and $55," LoPresti Paniagua said. "Zillow, as well as dozens of other websites, offer this service."
To verify someone's income, ask to see their recent pay stubs. Some college students may have a parent co-sign their lease. If this is the case for your potential tenant, ask for their parent's pay stubs.
Finally, make some calls. Call the phone number on the tenant's pay stub to ensure they're employed. Ask for phone numbers from former landlords and roommates to confirm that your subtenant has a history of making rent and respecting others' property.
Remember, communicate, communicate, communicate. Just as you have with your landlord, you want clear and open lines of communication with your subtenant. Tell them your expectations for communication and how to get in touch with you. That way, you can hand over your keys with confidence.
With Advice From
Peter LoPresti Paniagua
Peter LoPresti Paniagua is a real estate broker at Exit Strategy Realty in Chicago, where he represents both buyers and renters. In 2015, he co-founded LoPresti Ventures LLC to manage a short-term rental portfolio. LoPresti Paniagua has been a licensed real estate broker and proud National Association of Realtors member since 2016. He has also served on the Board of Directors of Ganadera El Guarial S.A., the largest land-owning entity in Paquera, Costa Rica.
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