Subletting an Apartment: Everything You Need to Know

Subletting is when the tenant of a house or apartment rents out all or part of their unit to another tenant. This tenant is known as a sublessee, and you, the person named on the original lease, are known as the sublettor. 

Subleasing can work well as an alternative to breaking your lease, and it can save you money in scenarios when you need to move out of your apartment for an extended period. It can also defray the cost of your rent if you use it to rent out a spare room of your apartment.

However, since you are named on the original lease, you will still be legally liable for paying rent on the unit and keeping it in good condition.

In this article, we’ll walk you through the pros and cons of subletting, how to go about finding a sublessee, how to vet potential tenants, and what to do if something goes wrong. If you’re considering a subletting arrangement, read on! 

Will subletting work for you?

Suppose you find yourself in a position where you need to move out of your apartment for a prolonged period or move out before your lease is up. Subletting might be a good option. Subletting can help you save money and avoid the consequences that often accompany breaking your lease.

For instance, let’s say you are sent out of town on a work placement for three months. It wouldn’t be ideal to break your lease since you know you’ll be back at the end of that time, but you also can’t afford to pay rent for two apartments. Subletting your apartment would enable you to keep your original place while subsidizing the cost of doing so. 

Alternatively, maybe you get a compelling job offer in another city, and you intend to take it. Instead of getting stuck paying a ton of fees for breaking your current lease, you could find a sublessee for the remaining months of the lease. You could then use the money you save to put a deposit on an apartment in your new city. This way, you avoid the negative repercussions and costs of breaking your lease and free up the money you need to rent a new place.

Before you decide whether subletting is the right option for you, you’ll need to consider the potential downsides and think through what the entire subletting process will entail.

Pros and cons of subletting

While subletting can be a practical solution for some housing scenarios, it also comes with its own set of challenges. 

Firstly, let’s consider some of the pros:

  • You can avoid fees associated with breaking your lease
  • You may be able to charge more than your rent, especially if you sublet the unit furnished
  • Maintain a good relationship with your landlord by honoring your lease

And now, let’s look at some of the potential downsides to subletting your apartment:

  • Your sublessee could damage the unit or any belongings you leave in the unit, creating issues when you move in again
  • Finding a reliable sublessee could be challenging and time-consuming
  • You may not be able to sublet your unit for the same amount that you are paying for it
  • If your sublessee decides to move out early, you’ll be on the hook for the rent at your original apartment and the second one you moved into
  • If your sublessee is a bad tenant, it could destroy your relationship with your landlord

Before you sublet

Before you begin your search for a sublessee, go through the following steps to ensure you are well prepared.

Review the terms of your lease

Before you begin the process of subletting, you need to make sure your lease allows for it. There will most likely be a section in your lease that clearly states whether or not subletting is allowed.

If your lease doesn’t permit subletting, don’t do it. If you are caught, you (and by extension, your tenant) may face eviction and fines.

Talk to your landlord

Now that you’ve confirmed that your lease permits subletting, it’s time to talk with your landlord

Let your landlord know that you are planning to move out and sublet your unit. This is a courtesy that will help you remain on good terms with your landlord, which is always preferable, especially if you plan to move back in after the sublet.  

Discuss the logistics of the sublet with your landlord. Some landlords may be willing to manage your sublessee as their own tenant, while others may prefer to deal with you, the existing tenant. If your landlord prefers the latter, you will have to act as a middle man between your tenant and the landlord in the event of any maintenance issues. 

Ideally, your landlord will be willing to treat the sublessee as one of his own tenants and deal with them directly regarding rent payments or maintenance issues. 

Consider the logistics of your sublet

Before you create an ad for your sublet, you’ll have to think through the logistics of this arrangement.

Will you be renting your unit furnished or unfurnished? If you’re not comfortable renting it furnished, where will you store your belongings (and how much will it cost)?

If they are not already included in the rent, who will be responsible for paying the unit’s utilities? Will you keep them in your name and raise the rent to compensate? Or will you close your accounts and have the sublessee set up utilities in his or her name? 

What will the dates of the sublet be? Is there any possibility of an extension? For instance, if you’re looking to sublet your unit through the end of your lease, your sublessee may have the option to stay in the rental and take out a lease in their name. This could make the rental a more enticing option for someone looking for a long term rental.

How will communication regarding the rental be handled? Will the sublessee direct questions to you or your landlord? 

Will the sublessee pay rent to you or directly to the landlord? 

Determine a fair price for your sublet

Now that you know what you’ll be including in your subletting agreement, it’s time to set the price. 

In many cases, you can probably rent your unit for precisely what you pay in rent. However, if you’ll be renting the unit furnished you might be able to charge a little more. 

You’ll also want to make sure your sublet is priced competitively within the market. In some cases, you may need to price your rental lower than what you’re currently paying to find a tenant. 

For instance, if you’re a student in a college town who is hoping to move home for the summer, chances are you’re not the only one. You might find that the demand for rentals is much lower in the summer, and you might have a hard time finding a sublessee willing to pay full price. 

Before you commit to a price, look at current rental listings and sublet listings in your area to make sure the price you have in mind is comparable. If it isn’t, adjust accordingly.

Finding a Sublessee

You’ve spoken with your landlord, thought through the logistics of managing a sublet, and you’ve chosen your price point. Now it’s time to advertise your sublet and find a reliable tenant.

Create a compelling ad

The better your ad, the better your pool of sublease applicants will be. Create a descriptive ad outlining the features of your unit and any relevant terms of your sublease. Mention the number of months for which the rental is available and whether it may be possible to extend the lease.

You’ll also want to mention whether the unit is furnished, which utilities are included, and any other enticing perks of living in the rental and the neighborhood.

Tidy your rental and take some compelling photos to accompany your ad. Be sure to highlight key areas, such as the bathroom, kitchen, and any special features of the unit like a view, a garden, or a balcony. Your photos should help a prospective tenant envision what it will be like to live in the rental.

At the bottom of your ad, outline how you’d like interested renters to contact you, whether it be phone, email, or something else. You might wish to request that they send a short blurb about themselves as this can help you begin to narrow your pool of applicants to those who seem most stable and trustworthy.

Reach out to your network

Word of mouth can be a powerful way to connect with reliable prospective tenants. Not to mention, subletting to a friend of a friend can make the process of vetting your sublessee much less stressful. 

Let your friends, co-workers, and acquaintances know that you’re looking to sublet your apartment. Send them a copy of your ad and invite them to share it with their networks. 

Hopefully you’ll generate some interest this way, but just for good measure, advertise your rental online as well. 

Set up showings 

Once you start hearing back from interested parties, you can begin showing the unit and narrowing down your pool of prospective tenants. 

When you show the unit, you’ll have the opportunity to meet prospects in person, which will allow you to get to know them a little bit. Make casual conversation and try to get a feel for each applicant. Ask them questions about their lifestyle and interests. Does it sound like they might throw loud parties? Do they seem like a homebody? Is there anyone that just rubs you the wrong way? 

Because you can’t judge someone based on your gut alone, invite interested individuals to fill out a rental application. You can find free rental application templates online. These will help you collect pertinent information such as employment and tenant history and landlord references, so you can continue the vetting process. 

Check references

As a sublettor, you’re on the hook for paying the rent even if your sublessee doesn’t. With this in mind, checking your prospective tenants’ references is critical.

Call one or two of the references your top candidates provided on their application forms and ask if the landlord would recommend them as a tenant. 

If you want to take the vetting process a step further, you could request permission to run a credit check on your applicants as well.

Once you’ve chosen a qualified applicant with excellent references, it’s time to sign the subletting agreement. 

What to put in your subletting contract

A subletting agreement or subletting contract outlines each party’s responsibilities when it comes to the rental. 

Like a lease, it states the property rules, the fees associated with living there, and other relevant policies pertaining to things like maintenance, pets, guests, and more.

You can find sublease agreement templates online and tailor them to fit the specifications of your rental unit. As you craft the sublease agreement, refer to your lease to ensure the sublease reflects the policies stipulated on your original lease.

As soon as the sublease agreement is signed, you officially have yourself a tenant! 

Sublet troubleshooting

Ideally, you’ll find a fantastic sublessee and your sublet will go off without a hitch. But, it’s always best to be prepared for issues before they arise.

The following are a couple of potential problems you could face while subletting, along with tips for resolving them.

Your sublessee causes property damage

If your sublessee causes extensive damage (beyond normal wear and tear) to the rental unit, you, as the individual named on the lease, will likely be held liable for the cost of fixing it. With this in mind, have your sublessee pay a damage deposit before moving in. This will incentivize the sublessee to take care of your rental while providing you with a financial buffer in the event of damage. 

Your sublessee neglects to pay rent 

Unfortunately, if your sublessee doesn’t pay the rent, you will still be liable for paying since you are the tenant on the original lease. While you may be able to pursue some sort of legal action against your sublessee, your options are limited. You could take your sublessee to small claims court or sue them for breach of contract. However, these endeavors cost money and time, which you may not have in excess. If you’ve collected a damage deposit, you can use this money towards making the missed rent payment. 

With this in mind, it’s critical to vet your sublessee carefully before signing the sublet agreement. 

Final Thoughts

Subletting your apartment can be a great way to avoid breaking your lease if you need to move out of your apartment. Before you sublet, it’s essential to think through the logistics of a subleasing arrangement and determine whether you feel equipped to manage one. Ultimately, you will still be liable for the rental unit, as you are listed on the original lease, so it’s crucial to find a reliable tenant.