Who Is Responsible in a Sublet Arrangement?

By Elise Nelson on August 6, 2017

Subletting could be the solution to all your apartment problems. If you’re the subletter, you have someone to finish the lease for you when you need to move out in a pinch. If you’re the subtenant, you have a temporary living situation at a cheaper price. It’s the perfect deal … once you get the responsibilities settled.

As the subletter, you are responsible for …

1. Working out the details with your landlord. The first step in subletting your apartment is to make sure that you’re allowed to do it at all. Landlords don’t always accept subtenants, usually because there is an elevated risk of property damage or missing payments.

Check your lease agreement for a subletting clause. If subletting is allowed, the clause will likely include instructions on how to proceed.

Even though you aren’t living in the apartment, your name is still on the original lease. Therefore, you are held responsible for any risks. Make sure your landlord knows that you understand this when you speak to them about subletting. From there, the two of you can decide what expectations you’ll have for the subtenant.

2. Finding the right subtenant. Once you get the O.K. from your landlord, you’re ready to start the subtenant search. You should find a subtenant that best fits the terms of your original lease. They will likely be held to the same standards as you were when you first moved in.

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Advertise your apartment wherever possible, but make sure that the subtenant requirements are in plain sight. Social media is a great tool for finding potential subtenants!

When you come across an interested tenant, work with your landlord to gauge their reliability. Even if they’re your friend, request their credit history and references from previous landlords.

Ask them some important questions, like if they have pets or if they smoke. Will anyone be living with them? Have they ever subleased before? Getting all the answers up front will help you avoid conflicts later.

3. Negotiating a security deposit and rent. In a perfect world, all responsibility would be out of your hands once you let a subtenant move into your apartment. Unfortunately, that is very rarely the case.

Often times you won’t get your security deposit back until the end of your lease agreement, even though you’ve moved out. You will also likely still pay a portion of the rent while you’re away. These payments will ensure that you will take responsibility for any issues that arise during your absence.

You should charge a security deposit from your subtenant so that they will hold up their end of the deal. The deposit will vary depending on the situation, but don’t charge more than what you paid. Be aware that each state has different laws on handling security deposits, so it’s best to double check on that first.

When it comes to rent, your subtenant should pay 70-80 percent of what you would normally pay. Make sure they are clear on if the payment will go to you or to your landlord.

4. Creating a sublease agreement. When all the questions are answered and all the details are worked out, put everything in writing. See if your landlord has a sublease agreement ready for you to use. If they don’t, you can always make your own. The contract will list everyone’s responsibilities — that includes you, your subtenant, and your landlord.

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Everyone should get a copy of the sublease agreement so that they can refer to it later. It should outline the expected behavior from your subtenant, rent due dates, and the length of the term.

Makes sure that the sublease agreement is similar to your master lease to avoid any confusion on expectations. Once you sign it, you must be sure that you adhere to your end of the deal.

As the subtenant, you are responsible for …

1. Keeping the apartment clean and undamaged. You may live in the apartment for now, but remember that it really isn’t yours. If your subletter left behind some items for you to use, such as kitchen utensils, make sure to take care of them. Don’t leave them unwashed for long periods of time and try not to break them. If there’s a list of what you can and can’t use, pay attention to it.

If you have guests over, you are responsible for any messes that they leave behind. Be careful not to damage any furniture that isn’t yours.

Remember your security deposit! You want your money back at the end of the term — keep in mind that your subletter wants their money back, too.

2. Being honest with your subletter and their landlord. To avoid conflict, you should always be honest in a sublease arrangement.

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If you’d like to have someone come to stay with you in the apartment, ask your subletter first. They need to check with the landlord to make sure it’s acceptable. The same goes for pets — don’t try to hide any furry creatures!

Any damages should be reported to your subletter as soon as possible. In some cases, they will act as your landlord and will be responsible for fixing the damage. If not, they can at least request a repair from the landlord. You don’t want any damages to get worse by letting them go until the original tenant moves back in.

3. Respecting your new roommates or neighbors. If your subletter has roommates that are strangers to you, living together can be a difficult transition. Get to know them when you first move in.

Establish some rules with a roommate agreement. Remember that they have lived there longer than you have, so they might already have a routine. You must respect that routine and be aware of boundaries. Make sure you know what you can and cannot share, and have a plan for resolving conflicts.

The same principle of respect applies to any new neighbors that you have. Don’t be too disruptive, especially if you have guests over. Be polite and make a good first impression. You never know when you might need their help!

4. Paying rent on time. This is just common sense. Once you agree on a payment plan, you are responsible for sticking to it. You and your subletter will both take the fall if you don’t pay your rent on time. If you’re having trouble getting payments in, you should speak to the landlord about it to work out a solution together.

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Every party in a sublease arrangement should know what they are getting into before agreeing to sign a contract. Plan on having a walkthrough of the apartment before anyone moves to agree on what it should look like by the time the sublease is over.

By Elise Nelson

Uloop Writer
Elise is a senior at Albright College in Reading, Pa, studying journalism. She hopes to pursue a career in feature writing and editing for a magazine. Much of Elise's time is dedicated to being Editor-in-Chief of Albright's student newspaper, The Albrightian. She is also a member of Sigma Tau Delta English Honors Society, and co-hosts a radio show on WXAC 91.3 FM.

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