Subletting an Apartment: Everything You Need to Know

Subletting entails an existing tenant renting out out all or part of their rental to another tenant. If you need to move out of your rental before your lease ends, subletting enables you to have someone else pay the rent on the apartment when you’re not living there.

Since your name remains on the original lease, you are still the person legally responsible for paying rent and maintaining the unit for the remainder of the term. In other words, if your tenant (also known as a sublessee) damages the rental or fails to pay the rent, you will be on the hook for those expenses.  

If you’re forced to relocate for work, want to spend a few months traveling, or plan to move in with your significant other, finding a sublessee is a cost-effective alternative to breaking your lease. Or, if you have a two-bedroom unit, subletting your spare room can help you subsidize the cost of rent each month!

How to Sublet Your Apartment in 8 Steps

1. Look into the legalities of subletting

Before you get too attached to the idea of subletting, double-check that your lease agreement permits it. Some leases prohibit subletting (though that doesn’t mean you can’t appeal to your landlord).

Next, cross-reference your lease’s subletting rules with the subletting laws in your state. Some states, including Nevada and Utah, have laws stipulating that landlords must allow subletting. Meanwhile, some state laws (including Colorado and Delaware) stipulate that subletting is permitted unless your landlord specifically states otherwise in your lease agreement. 

If your lease truly doesn’t permit subletting, you shouldn’t do it without permission. If you are caught, you and your sublessee may face eviction and fines. 

Instead of going against the terms of your lease, contact your landlord, explain your situation, and request permission to sublet your apartment. In some cases, they may be willing and able to make an exception, especially if you have already proven to be a responsible and respectful tenant.  

2. Inform your landlord you plan to sublet

Once you’ve confirmed that your lease allows subletting, talk with your landlord. Let them know you’re planning to move out and sublet your apartment. Notifying them is a simple courtesy that will help maintain a good relationship with your landlord, which is ideal. That way, if anything goes wrong during the sublet or you decide to move back into your apartment after your sublessee moves out, you won’t be walking on eggshells around your landlord. 

If you have a good relationship with your landlord, the may be amenable to treating your sublessee as if they were their own tenant. Other landlords may prefer to continue communicating with you directly, meaning you’ll have to act as a middleman for your own tenant. 

With any luck, your landlord will be willing to communicate with your sublessee directly regarding rent payments or maintenance issues. 

3. Prepare your rental for a sublet

Before you can advertise your sublet, you need to consider the logistics of renting it out. Will you leave your furniture and belongings in the unit and rent it fully furnished? Do you plan to put your things in storage for the duration of the sublet? Are you taking them with you to wherever you go next?

If you choose to rent your unit fully furnished, you may be able to charge a little bit more for the convenience of doing so. You should also consider collecting a more substantial damage deposit in case any of your belongings are damaged during the sublet. 

Next, think about how long your sublet will last. Will you be moving back into the apartment at the end of it? If not, is there an opportunity for your sublessee to renew the lease in their own name at the end of the rental period? This information will help prospective renters determine whether your unit is a good fit for their lifestyle. 

You should also think about how you’ll handle communication with the tenant. If your landlord is willing to work with them directly, that is a huge bonus! If not, create a communication plan for your tenant. Will you be easily reachable? Anything you can do to manage their expectations around communication will help both of you feel at ease. 

Finally, determine whether the sublessee will pay rent to you or directly to the landlord. If they pay the landlord, how will you verify that payments have been made on time?

4. Pricing your sublet

Once you’ve established a timeline and a protocol for your sublet, you need to set the price. Ideally, you’ll be able to charge the same amount for the sublet that you pay in rent each month. If you’re leaving your rental fully furnished, you can probably charge a little bit more. 

Analyze other rentals in your area to ensure your unit is competitively priced. If you’re renting your apartment out in the off-season (say, during summer break in a college town), you may be forced to lower the rent a little bit to make your rental more appealing. 

Don’t forget to request a damage deposit from your tenant because if they damage the rental, you’re on the hook for covering those expenses. 

5. Find a sublessee

Since you’re still financially responsible for your apartment throughout the sublet, finding a reliable tenant is paramount. 

Create a descriptive ad

Start by creating a strong ad to attract qualified candidates. Summarize all the features of your rental and include mention of any other relevant information that will help individuals determine whether it’s a good fit for them. This includes proximity to public transportation, grocery stores, popular amenities, and activity opportunities. 

Outlining all the utilities and amenities included in the rental price. Is there laundry in the unit? What is the parking situation like? Are electricity and internet included? If not, let renters know how much any additional bills usually cost so they can create a realistic budget. 

Include enticing photos of your rental to ensure your ad is eye-catching and will attract interest. 

Contact your network

Finding a sublessee through your network of friends and acquaintances will help you pre-vet any candidates. Mention your sublet to your friends, coworkers, and family members in case they know of anyone interested.

Post your ad online

Post your ad in local Facebook groups, Facebook marketplace, and any other local websites that are popular for finding rentals in your area. This will help you reach a broad audience and attract a vast pool of candidates. 

6. Conduct showings

Once you receive inquiries, you can move forward with apartment showings. These meetings are not only an opportunity for the prospective tenant to check out your rental but a chance for you to get a feel for them and decide whether they seem trustworthy.

Chat casually with your prospective renters to try to get an idea of their lifestyle and interests. It may offer insight into how they will treat your rental. Do they seem like they’re keen on throwing loud parties? Is there something about them that you just don’t like? 

You can’t always judge someone based on a first meeting, but it may help you narrow the pool of applicants. Ask anyone interested in renting the unit to fill out a rental application. You can find free rental application templates online to help you collect the information you need to assess your prospects. Request each applicant’s employment history, tenancy history, and landlord references. 

7. Check references

Do not skip this step. Remember, you’re still financially responsible for the rental unit until the end of your lease term, so finding a reliable subletter is crucial.

Contact the references for your top candidates and ask whether their former landlord would recommend them as a tenant. Then, verify that their employment information is accurate.

As an extra layer of caution, you could request permission to run a credit check on your applicants as well.

8. Have your tenant sign a subletting contract

Once you’ve selected a qualified applicant, have them sign a subletting contract. 

A subletting agreement is a contract that summarizes each party’s responsibilities when it comes to the rental. Just like a lease, it highlights the rules of the property, fees a sublessee is responsible for paying, and any other relevant policies or rules for living in the unit. For example, the subletting agreement will state the building’s policies on pets, guests, and noise allowances.

There are all kinds of sublease agreement templates online that you can download and tailor to suit the specifications of your rental. Refer to your lease as you create the sublease agreement to ensure the policies and rules you list on your document match those that are stated on your lease. 

Make sure the sublease agreement clearly states when and how to pay the rent each month and who to contact (you or the landlord) in the event of an issue. 

Once the sublease is signed, you officially have a tenant!

Tips for subletting when you have roommates

In most cases, you don’t legally need permission from your roommates to sublet your room in a shared apartment. However, it’s prudent to reference your state laws on subletting just to be sure this is true where you live.

Even if you’re not legally obligated to get permission from your roommate, you should have a conversation with them regarding your plans to sublet your room. After all, they will be living with this new person, and it’s important to consider their comfort and safety. 

With any luck, your roommate will assist you with the sublet process and help you find a tenant that both of you are comfortable with. Depending on the situation and duration of your intended sublet, your roommate may opt to move out also, meaning the two of you could sublet the entire apartment, which may be easier than filling a single room. 

Once you decide on a tenant, have them sign a roommate agreement with your remaining roommate to ensure they abide by the existing house rules you’ve already established. 

Subletting pros and cons

Before you decide to move forward with subletting, consider the pros and cons to help you decide whether it’s truly the right solution. It can be practical in some housing scenarios, but there are challenges that come with an agreement like this. 

Pros of subletting

  • You can avoid breaking your lease (and the extra fees that come with doing so)
  • There’s a chance you can charge more than your rent, especially if the unit is furnished or if it’s located in a popular neighborhood
  • If you’re only going away for a few months and want to return to the same neighborhood, subletting enables you to maintain your lease and keep your foothold in the neighborhood at a favorable rental price. 

Cons of subletting

  • Choosing the wrong sublessee could leave you liable for damage to the unit or unpaid rent
  • Finding and managing a sublessee could be difficult and time-consuming. Do you have the bandwidth for this type of responsibility?
  • You may be forced to sublet your unit for less than you’re currently paying in rent
  • If your sublessee is a bad tenant, it could damage your relationship with your landlord

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.