Various life changes can occur that might require you to move from your current place of residence. If you happen to be a tenant, however, the issue of subletting your place may come up if your lease is not set to expire soon. Before you start looking for a subtenant to take your place, it's important to understand more about subleasing and what it means for you as a tenant.
How a sublease works
The distinction between a sublease and a lease is important from a legal standpoint because both are legal documents with binding effects:
- Lease. As a contract entered into by a landlord and tenant, a lease provides the terms and conditions under which the tenant rents a unit from the landlord.
- Sublease. As a contract between the tenant, also commonly referred to in such situations as the master tenant, and the subtenant, a sublease provides the terms and conditions under which the subtenant rents the master tenant's unit.
The most important point to keep in mind is that the subtenant who signs a sublease agreement enters into a contract with you, the master tenant, not with the landlord. Consequently, you are still bound by the terms of the original lease, meaning you remain liable to your landlord for rent payments, regardless of whether your subtenant pays you promptly. You are also liable to your landlord for any damages to the rental unit caused by your subtenant.
How to sublease an apartment
Because you remain liable to your landlord for both rent payments and any potential damages, it's important that you exercise due care during the sublet process. Following these steps can help ensure you do so.
- Obtain your landlord's consent. Examine your lease to see what terms it contains about subletting. Generally speaking, if the lease is silent about subleases, you're probably permitted to sublet, but you should still obtain your landlord's written permission.
- Research local laws and regulations. State and local laws differ regarding subleasing issues, such as a tenant's ability to sublet and whether a landlord can unreasonably withhold consent.
- Sublease rental agreement. Establish your legal relationship with your subtenant with a properly drafted and executed sublease agreement. In addition to spelling out the rights and duties that you as the master tenant are transferring to your subtenant, you can also customize your agreement to suit your particular circumstances, such as subletting on a month-to-month basis.
- Screen potential subtenants. While it might be tempting to hand over your apartment to the first applicant who shows up, you should implement screening procedures such as credit score checks to make sure a potential sublettor is someone you really should be renting to. Remember that even though this person has agreed to pay you rent, you are the person who is ultimately responsible for paying your landlord each month.
Despite making your best efforts to find a reliable subtenant, you may one day find yourself with someone who repeatedly fails to pay the rent or who is in some other way an inappropriate tenant. When this happens, you must try to evict your subtenant.
While the termination of the sublease should be covered in a properly drafted sublease agreement, eviction in rental situations is usually governed under state regulations. States may also regulate your landlord's right to evict a subtenant, so that is another matter to consider if you're thinking of turning to your landlord for help.
Whether you find yourself needing to sublet your apartment because of a change of job or some other life circumstance, the subleasing process does not have to be a complicated one. Armed with your landlord's consent, a properly drafted sublease agreement, and solid screening techniques, you should be well on your way to finding the best subtenant for your apartment.
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