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How to Screen for a Good Subletter

When you sublet, you're still on the hook for rent payments and damages—so make sure to check your potential subtenant's background and finances before sealing the deal.

Whether they are a friend of a friend or a complete stranger, we recommend you review your potential subtenant through two different lenses. First, check their background and get a sense of how compatible they will be with your neighbors or housemates. Then, review their income to make sure they'll be able to pay the rent each month.

What's the best way to check an applicant's background?

When screening a potential subletter, you need to scrutinize their background and identity to make sure that they're not lying about who they are. Plus, better understanding their lifestyle makes it less likely they'll do anything to upset you, your roommates, or your neighbors.

  • Review their social media presence: Get a sense of who this person is by looking at their Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram profiles.
  • Ask for references: Check to see if you have any friends in common. If so, reach out to those people to run a "blind reference check"—that is, finding someone connected to your applicant and asking them about the person without giving your applicant a heads up.
  • Run a formal background check: Ask for a background check so that you know they've never been arrested or evicted and aren't lying about their identity.

How can I tell if they'll pay the rent on time?

The best way to figure out if someone will be able to pay rent is to get a sense of how much extra cash they have on hand each month after paying off debts, insurance policies, and regular living expenses like groceries or gym memberships.

  • Ask for pay stubs or contracts: Start by asking your potential subletter for an offer letter or contracts that state how much they earn on a monthly basis. Once you’ve received it, you can further verify it with either pay stubs or bank statements that show regular credits to their checking account.
  • Figure out how much debt they have: Student loans are the most common—and easiest-to-spot—monthly expense. Beyond that, the applicant might have other types of loans or insurance payments, which should be easy to locate on a bank statement. Even if someone has a decent salary, if they're paying off thousands of dollars of credit card loans, one bad month could make it hard for them to pay rent.

Subtract their total monthly expenses from their total monthly income. Assume that 10% of that will probably go to savings, and an additional 5-10% will probably go towards major purchases. Is there enough left over to comfortably pay rent?

Depending on where you rent, you may also need to get the green light from your landlord before moving forward with a sublet.

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.