Six Tips for Subletting Your Apartment

If you’ve ever had to sublet your apartment you know how difficult it can be. Just finding people you’d be willing to sublet to can be hard. The landlord may not want to allow it; she negotiated with you and may not want to deal with someone new. If you live in a condo or co-op your subletter may need to comply with house rules for renters. So what do you do?

Finding a subletter for this awesome place? Super easy, right?
Finding a subletter for this awesome place? Super easy, right?

Credit: Flickr/CC 2.0

We’ve got some ideas. The most important one: when trying to sublet your place, you need to think like a landlord. Protect yourself. Work hard to find a reliable, responsible subletter. Check references and credit. Use a contract. Get a security deposit. Remember how painful it was to rent your apartment? Most of those hoops are there to protect the landlord from bad tenants.

Here are our six tips to help you have a successful subletting experience:

(1)  Read your lease (and the co-op/condo rules, if applicable). Does your lease allow subletting? If it does, does the owner need to consent? If you’re renting a co-op or condo, the co-op or condo board may need to approve your subletter. That may require the subletter to produce financial records, for example, and to submit to interviews with the condo or co-op board. If your lease does allow subletting without the landlord’s consent you should still notify the landlord that you intend to do so. It’s a courtesy and can help avoid problems later. You want your landlord to be your ally!

If your lease forbids subletting, you need to think very carefully before you do so. If you really need to sublet your place, consider asking for written permission. If you sublet without permission and in violation of the lease you risk a very unhappy landlord who may have rights against you under the lease. It may also be harder for you to rent in the future.

(2)  Tap into your social network to find candidates. Your social network is the first and best place to look for a subletter. Your social connection to the people in your network (even if indirect) should help prevent the subletter from taking advantage of you. You’ll also have the ability to check references informally.

Outside of your social network, there are websites that allow you to advertise your apartment. (RentHop’s good for this!) Use caution with the candidates you find and make sure you do your diligence.

(3)  Price your place appropriately. Research comparable apartments in your neighborhood and price your place accordingly. You may need to find a subletter quickly, but if you underprice too far you may attract bad candidates. (And keep in mind that if your subtenant pays less than the full rent you’ll have to make up the difference!) You shouldn’t necessarily be out to turn a profit – that may not sit well with your landlord. But you don’t want a bad situation with a subletter paying far less than the total monthly rent, either.

(4)  Check your renter’s insurance policy. Depending on your state and your policy you may not be protected from theft/damage by a subletter. (You do have renter’s insurance, right?) Your policy also needs to have ample liability coverage in case your subletter is injured in the apartment. If your subletter will be in the apartment for more than a few months it’s not a bad idea for him or her to get renter’s insurance as well.

(5)  Do your diligence. You need to be comfortable with allowing this person to live in your space (and using your things, if you’re subletting the apartment with your property in it). You should ask for references and some indication that the subletter can pay the rent, whether in the form of bank statements, credit reports or otherwise. If a prospective subletter won’t give you information you reasonably ask for that’s a red flag.

(6)  Get it in writing. You need a direct agreement with the subletter that he or she will pay you rent in return for living in your space. You’re also still a tenant yourself – you’re still responsible for performing under your own lease with the landlord, and if the subletter does something that would violate the terms of your lease you’ll be responsible.

There are several websites where you can get a simple form of sublease. Get one and use it. And make sure that the form you use explicitly requires the subletter not to breach any of the terms of your lease. 

If you plan to get a security deposit: there may be legal rules regarding how you hold those funds, what you can do with them and what interest you have to pay on them, if any. At minimum, keep the security deposit in a separate account and keep good accounting records for that account. If at the end of the term of the sublease you need to use part of the security deposit to repair damage or clean the apartment, keep good records of those transactions as well.

Disclaimer: this post is not intended to be and does not constitute legal advice and you should not use it for that purpose.


Speaking of security deposits, here are some tips to help you avoid losing yours.

And since you’re becoming a landlord, learn a little more about negotiating your rent in Manhattan.

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