Subletting a room or an apartment can seem stressful at first. Is it even legal? How do you figure out if your landlord will let you? What should you look for in your lease? And how do you choose a subtenant? Keep reading for some general guidance on the steps you should take for a successful sublet, but keep in mind that since laws vary by state it might make more sense to skip directly to the guide for your state. You can choose your state from the dropdown menu at the top of this page.
1. Check your local laws
Your right to sublet might be written in your lease or in state law depending on where you live. For example, in Massachusetts, Maryland, Kentucky, Louisiana and Iowa you can sublet your apartment without getting approval from your landlord unless your lease expressly forbids subletting.
In Chicago and New York, you have the right to sublet no matter what: even if your lease prohibits subletting and your landlord says no, you can still do it so long as your subtenant is as qualified as you. Check your state laws first to know where you stand.
2. Choose a qualified subtenant
When you sublet you remain liable for the rent payments. That's why it's so important to make sure your subtenant can actually pay the rent and wouldn't put your neighbors, roommates or landlord at risk.
3. Finalize a sublet agreement
A legally binding lease contract between you and your subtenant is essential. By laying the ground rules on day one, you can protect yourself from any unforeseen disagreements.
At a minimum, sign an agreement with basic terms including: start date, end date, monthly rent, the average cost of utilities and who pays them, what to do if someone wants to extend or shorten the duration of the lease, and what happens if your subtenant stops paying the rent.
4. Get your landlord's approval
Most landlords prefer to be informed about a potential sublet so that they can review the sublet agreement and the applicant. This is especially true when you are renting out an entire home. If you are renting out a room in a shared home, then your landlord might not require a formal approval process.
Either way, we recommend that you reach out to your landlord to get their policies and send them information about your new subtenant.
5. Request a rent deposit from your subtenant
When you manage your own rental, you've got to figure out your own ways to separate the high-intent, high-quality tenants from the flaky ones. A great way to make sure someone is serious is to ask them for a good faith deposit on the rent.
This can be anywhere from 10% of the monthly rent to an entire upfront rent payment. We suggest you hold this money in escrow until you've signed a sublease and handed over the keys to them.
6. Collect and store a security deposit
To protect yourself against damages to the apartment or any belongings that you leave in the space, you should take a security deposit from your subtenant. Follow your state's laws for accepting and holding security deposits as best you can. Depending on where you live, you may be expected to store the money in a separate account. You should also do an inspection of the apartment before they move in, and get them to sign off on it.
7. Set up rent payments
You don't want to spend the first day of every month pestering someone for rent. Agree on a process for rent payments before they move in. Put this process in writing in the sublet agreement that you both sign.
The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.