A sublease agreement is a contract formed between the original tenant to a property (the “sublessor”) and a new tenant (the “sublessee” or “subtenant”). Once signed, the contract 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
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
A tenant’s right to sublet comes down to one thing: their landlord. While many states (24, to be exact) have requirements regarding subleasing, they all fall back on whether their landlord permits it or not. To reiterate, there are no states that outright prevent subleasing. They only differ in the permissions they give landlords to permit/restrict the act of subletting. There are twenty-six (26) states that do not restrict subletting in their laws.
The majority of states permit subletting if it is not mentioned directly in the lease agreement. Additionally, even if a landlord states subleasing isn’t permitted, they cannot unreasonably deny a tenant’s right to sublet.
What to do if the lease…
Unless the tenant already found a subtenant (in which they can proceed to the next step), they’ll need to publicize the availability of the room/rental. The following are ways in which the tenant can go about locating a subtenant:
- Post on a rental platform – There are several platforms tenants can use to list their available room or unit, including:
- Use social media – Creating a post and requesting family and friends to share it can quickly spread the news of the available rental. Be warned, however, as family and friends can oftentimes make the worst tenants.
- 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 looking for a place to stay. Especially recommended for those leaving on summer vacation and need a subtenant for two (2) to three (3) months.
Once a tenant has been found, the tenant should screen them to ensure they have the means of paying rent, haven’t had previous evictions, and are in generally good financial standing. This is a similar process as to what a landlord does 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 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 upon the applicant’s past and allows the tenant to see if the applicant is lying about any information they’ve provided. Popular options include:
Once the subtenant has been approved-of by the tenant (and the landlord if required by the lease), 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 officially move out of the property and permit the sublessee to move in.
At this point, the landlord will be aware of the subletting situation, the sublease agreement will have been signed, the sublessor will have moved out, and the subtenant will be moving in. The tenant (sublessor) is now free to 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. And as such, they are liable in the event the subtenant doesn’t pay their rent, damages the rental, or breaks any other condition 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.
Sublease agreements are typically three (3) to five (5) page documents that range in complexity depending on the rules and conditions the tenant establishes.
- Names of the parties – The full name of the original tenant (sublessor), the sublessee, and the landlord.
- Term – Specify the starting 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 –
- Original copy – An original copy of the lease agreement signed with the landlord should be attached. This is very important for ensuring the subtenant understands their obligations outside of the sublease contract.
- 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 by 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’s an emergency or problem, the subtenant should be able to check the sublease for contact information of the sublessor and the landlord. Phone numbers, emails, and addresses should be listed.
- Dispute resolution – Covers how the parties will go about resolving issues in the event they occur 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 for smoking, if the tenant doesn’t smoke themselves they can include a clause that makes smoking prohibited in the rental.
The right to sublease is typically protected by State law. As far as legality is concerned, 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 wrongfully subleasing.
Yes. Sublease agreements are as legally binding as the original lease agreement that is signed with the landlord.
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. The act of doing so is legal so long 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 doing so illegal. If a sublandlord intends on charging more for rent, they should do a thorough check of all local and state laws to ensure legality.
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 in which the agreement was entered into, 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 in which the sublessee will officially move into the rental. The end-date of the sublease is commonly the date in 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 in 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 collects 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 what utilities the sublessee will be responsible for during the lease. Write any utilities not included 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 – there should be a 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 the space blank.
Step 11 – Lessor’s Consent
Check one of the three (3) provided boxes corresponding to 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, write the date in which they signed, and print their name in the dotted box.
Step 12 – Signatures
To finalize the agreement, the sublessor and sublessee will need to sign their names, write the date in which they’re signing, and write their full printed names on the lines provided. Once all signatures are recorded on the form, the sublease agreement will be complete and binding.