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A sublease agreement is a contract formed between the original tenant of a property (the “sublessor”) and a new tenant (the “sublessee” or “subtenant”). Once signed, this agreement permits the subtenant to live in the rental property either alongside or in replacement of the original tenant. The original tenant is still bound to the lease signed with their landlord, which remains in effect until the termination date is reached.

Sublease Agreements: By State

Contents

How to Sublet Your Apartment

Step 1 – Check the Lease

A tenant’s right to sublet comes down to one thing: their landlord. While many states (24, to be exact) have specific requirements regarding subleasing, the landlord’s permission is always the key factor. To be clear, there aren’t any that outright prevent subleasing; state laws only differ in how landlords permit/restrict the act of subletting. There are twenty-six (26) states that do not restrict subletting in any way.

The majority of states permit subletting if it is not mentioned directly in the lease agreement. Additionally, even if a landlord establishes that subleasing is not permitted, they cannot unreasonably deny a tenant’s right to sublet.

What to do if the lease…

  1. Doesn’t mention subleasing: Most likely good to go – check state landlord-tenant law to ensure permission doesn’t need to be obtained from the landlord; although receiving permission is always recommended to avoid liability.
  2. Requires landlord permission: Contact the landlord, explain the situation, and wait for their answer.
  3. Prohibits subletting: Don’t give up! Call the landlord or schedule a time to meet so you can go over exactly why you need to sublease. Also be sure to ask their reasoning for the restriction. Usually the landlord doesn’t want to risk an un-screened tenant living on their property. Because of this, offering to perform the screening on the subtenant might encourage the landlord to grant permission.

Step 2 – Find a Subtenant

Unless the tenant already found a subtenant (at which point they can proceed to the next step), they’ll need to publicize the availability of the room/rental. The following list includes a number of ways in which the tenant can go about locating a subtenant:

  • Post on a rental platform – There are several online platforms tenants can use to list their available room or unit.
  • Use social media – Creating a post and requesting family and friends to share it can quickly spread the news of the available rental. However, family and friends don’t always make the best tenants, so consider all the factors before making a decision.
  • Utilize school resources – Oftentimes universities will have a central bulletin board that can be used for posting vacant units. Additionally, many schools have online platforms specifically designed for leasing to students. This is especially useful for those leaving on summer vacation and need a subtenant for two (2) to three (3) months.

Screening

Once a tenant has been found, the tenant should screen them to ensure they have the means to pay rent, have a good rental record, and are responsible individuals in general. This is basically the same a landlord goes through when they screen a tenant for a lease, and typically involves the following:

  • References + Social Media – Requesting at least three (3) references from the potential subtenant (one should be from a previous landlord) can provide a great sense of how they are judged by their peers. Also taking the time to look them up on various social media platforms can provide a general sense of who the applicant is.
  • Financial information – Ask for information relating to their finances, including pay stubs, bank statements, information on their employer, and more. This is all used for ensuring the tenant is capable of affording the monthly rent payments.
  • Background check – This provides factual information based on the applicant’s past, and allows the tenant to see if the applicant is lying about any information they’ve provided. Popular options include the following:

Step 3 – Negotiate & Sign

Once the subtenant has been approved by the tenant (and the landlord as well, if necessary), they will sit down and negotiate the terms of the sublease. The sublease agreement is not a mirror-copy of the original lease agreement, although it will contain similar sections. The sublessor should attach a copy of the original lease to ensure the sublessee understands their obligations to the landlord.

Upon signing the lease, the sublessor can set up a date and time for the sublessee too move in.

Step 4 – Move Out & Monitor

At this point, the sublessor will move out and the subtenant will start moving in. The tenant (sublessor) can now move to a new location. Subtenants typically make rent payments directly to the tenant, who will then deliver the payment to the landlord.

It’s important to remember that the tenant is still bound to the original lease signed with the landlord. This means they are liable for the subtenant’s rent payments, damages the rental, and any violation of the original lease. Even though the tenant doesn’t technically have to be in the same area, they should be prepared to travel to the rental if a situation arises.


What Should be Included?

Sublease agreements are typically three (3) to five (5) page documents that range in complexity depending on the rules and conditions the tenant establishes.

Requirements

  • Names of the parties – The full names of the original tenant (sublessor), the sublessee, and the landlord.
  • Term – Specify the start and end dates of the sublease.
  • Property info – The full address of the rental. Include the unit number (#) and room number (#) if applicable.
  • Rent – The amount ($) of money the subtenant is required to pay on a monthly/weekly basis to the sublessor.
  • Utilities – Any utilities (electricity, water, heat, etc.) that will be the responsibility of the sublessor/subtenant.
  • Signatures – The sublessor and sublessee must sign the document (not usually necessary for the landlord to sign).
  • Original copy – A copy of the original lease agreement should be attached. This is very important for ensuring the subtenant understands their obligations outside of the sublease contract.

Optional Conditions

  • Security deposit – By requesting the subtenant to pay a security deposit, the sublessor can use the deposit towards any damage the subtenant caused during the sublease. What qualifies as “damage” should be clearly specified in the lease.
  • Move-in checklist – A condition requiring a move-in checklist to be completed is highly recommended if the sublessor will be collecting a security deposit from the sublessee. This helps to prevent the sublessee from claiming that damage they caused was there before they moved in.
  • Contact information – If there’ are any issues or in case of emergency, the subtenant should be able to check the sublease for the sublessor’s and landlord’s contact information. Phone numbers, emails, and addresses should be listed.
  • Dispute resolution – Covers how the parties will go about resolving issues during the lease. This helps to avoid litigation, which can be extremely time-consuming and costly for the parties.
  • Smoking – Even if the master lease allows smoking, if the tenant doesn’t smoke themselves they can include a clause that makes smoking prohibited in the rental.

Sample

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How to Write

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The sublease agreement should be completed by the original tenant to the property, known as the “Sublessor.” They can complete all steps below with the exception of the Lessor’s signature (if applicable) and the signature of the Sublessee.

Step 1 – Identify the Parties

The first section is used for establishing the date upon which the agreement was made effective, the name of the original tenant (the sublessor), the new tenant’s name (the sublessee), and the address of the rental (known as the “Premises”).

Step 2 – Beginning & End Dates (Term)

The sublessor will need to enter the start and end dates of the sublease. The start date is the day, month, and year upon which the sublessee will officially move into the rental. The end date of the sublease is commonly the date upon which the original agreement terminates, although the sublease can end earlier if the original tenant intends to move back into the rental at a later date.

Step 3 – Rent Amount

Enter the day of the week or month on which the sublessee is required to pay rent, followed by checking “week” if the sublessee will be required to pay rent on a weekly basis, or “month” if they will be required to pay rent once per month. Paying on a monthly basis is the standard timeframe. Then, enter the amount ($) of rent the sublessee is required to pay. On the next line, enter how the sublessee should go about making payments (e.g., “through Paypal to the sublessor’s account”).

Step 4 – Security Deposit

It is recommended that the sublessor collect a security deposit from the sublessee to cover any unreasonable damage caused by the sublessee during their time in the rental. On the first line, enter the amount ($) of the deposit. This is typically equivalent to one (1) month of rent. Then, enter the number of days the sublessor has to return the deposit at the end of the lease (state-specific security deposit laws should be referenced).

Step 5 – Utilities

Check the appropriate boxes to establish what utilities the sublessee will be responsible for during the lease. Enter any utilities not included on the list in the “Other” field.

Step 6 – Smoking Rules

The original lease should be consulted for determining if the sublessee can smoke or not. If the sublessee is permitted to smoke, check the second box, and specify the permitted area(s) for doing so. Otherwise, check the first box.

Step 7 – Parking Space

If the sublessee will have a designated parking space (street parking does not apply), check the second box and provide any necessary information about the space. If they will not be provided reserved parking, check the first box.

Step 8 – Lead-Based Paint

The original lease should be examined to find the section regarding lead-based paint. If no information can be found, the sublessor should consult the landlord to identify when the rental property was built. If it was built prior to 1978, check the second box and provide the sublessee with a handout on lead dangers in the home. If the rental building is newer than 1978, check the first box.

Step 9 – Governing Law

Write the name of the state in which the rental property is located.

Step 10 – Additional Terms

If there are any additional terms, conditions, or general information the sublessor would like to include, they can do so on the lines provided. Otherwise, leave these spaces blank.

Step 11 – Lessor’s Consent

Check one of the three (3) boxes to indicate whether or not the original lease permits subleasing. If one of the first two (2) checkboxes are selected, the sublessor can move on to step 12. If the third (3rd) box was checked, the sublessor will need to have the landlord (Lessor) sign their name, enter the signing date, and print their name.

Step 12 – Signatures

To finalize the agreement, the sublessor and sublessee will need to sign their names, provide the current date, and enter their full printed names on the lines provided. Once all signatures are recorded on the form, the sublease agreement will be complete and binding.


Frequently Asked Questions

Is subletting legal?

The right to sublease is typically protected by state law but in general it’s completely legal. However, if the landlord states subleasing isn’t permitted in the lease (and they have a good reason for it), the tenant can be evicted for subleasing.

Are subleases legally binding?

Yes, sublease agreements are as legally binding as the original lease agreement that was signed by the landlord and original tenant.

Can sublandlords charge higher rent?

A sublessor may be interested in charging more rent to a sublessee if the rental contains their own furniture or they are paying for one (1) or more utilities. This is legal as long as the rental property is not rent-stabilized.

Furthermore, cities and towns often set their own ordinances regarding the matter, which could make the act of charging higher rent illegal. If a sublandlord intends on charging more for rent, they should do a thorough check of all local and state laws to ensure they are permitted to do so.