Should You Sublet? Legal Ramifications

By on February 20, 2017

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Summer is here, which means vacations, beaches, and sand, and for some of you, extended time away from your regular residence. If you typically “summer” away from your apartment, you may consider subletting so your apartment isn’t sitting empty while you’re away. It’s also a good way to earn some extra cash for rent. While subletting may seem like a good idea, you should be aware of the legal ramifications of doing so before making any commitments.

What is subletting?

The legal definition of subletting is leasing or renting a part or all of your lease or rented property to another person called a subtenant. A subtenant is a person who you give the right use/occupy the rented or leased property. They have responsibilities to both you and your landlord, but you, the tenant, are still responsible for paying rent to your landlord and for any damage done to the property. Subletting is meant to be a temporary arrangement, and the agreement is that you will return before the end of your lease That’s subletting in a nutshell.

Legal Ramifications of Subletting

Typically, you must seek permission from your landlord to sublet your space, and they may or may not allow it because of these potential legal ramifications.

Failure to Pay Rent

As mentioned before, you are still obligated to pay rent on time to your landlord, even if your subtenant fails to pay rent to you. So, you have a couple of options here. You can either only sublet to trustworthy people you know are good for the money, or you can set up a cash reserve for rent just in case your subtenant fails to pay. If you collected a security deposit, you may also be able to use it to pay their rent, but it depends on your state’s laws. Consult an attorney before using their security deposit for non-payment.

Property Damage

In addition to rent, as the original tenant, you are also legally responsible for any damage done to the property. This risk exists even if you trust your subtenants, as anyone, passersby or guests, could damage the property on purpose or accidentally. Risk of property damage is really no reason not to sublet as this risk exists for you anyway. However, you do want to be prepared. Talk to your subtenants about a course of action if any damage is incurred, and set up a reserve fund for damages, if possible. It is within your rights to use their security deposit for damages, but keep in mind the deposit may to may not cover 100% of the amount, and it’s up to you to make up the difference.

Theft

Theft really goes hand-in-hand with property damage. If you trust your subtenants not to damage the place, you probably trust them not to steal your belongings. However, If you are renting a furnished apartment and leaving your valuables there while you’re away, theft is definitely a risk. There are several things you can do to mitigate this risk. You can:

  • Ask for personal references when processing applications.
  • Buy renter’s insurance.
  • Conduct a background check on potential subtenants.
  • Put your valuables or irreplaceable items in storage or in a safe.
  • Take a written and digital inventory of your valuables, so you can tell if anything is missing.

Most importantly, when it comes to theft, use common sense. If you really care about it and don’t want it to get stolen, don’t leave it lying around.

Evictions

If things really go South, the actions of your subtenant can result in an eviction for you both. Typically with evictions, landlords are required to provide a violation notice before taking any action against you. However, if you’re out of town, you may not be able to address the violations, which can result in an eviction lawsuit and a notice to vacate. If your subtenant does not address the violation or vacate the premises when asked, and you are sued, you will then have to file a lawsuit against the subtenant. This situation can get really messy, so it’s best to avoid subletting to questionable parties.

Protecting Yourself

If you are considering subletting this summer, your first priority should be to protect yourself. Before you do anything or make any commitments to potential subtenants, get permission from your landlord to ensure they even allow subletting. You never want to sublet your apartment without consulting your landlord. That can turn into a legal disaster.

Review your lease, and follow the steps to gain permission for subletting. You may need to request permission in writing, and request receipt of written permission from your landlord. If your landlord gives you verbal permission, but the lease does not address subletting, ask for an amendment to your lease that includes a sublease clause. Getting it in writing will ensure you are legally protected if you end up in court. As always, run the lease and any amendments by an attorney to ensure the verbiage is legally binding.

A Note to Landlords

Think long and hard about whether you want to allow your tenants to sublet. You are essentially trusting your tenants to make good decisions about who they let in their home. How well do you know your tenants? Do they have a history of paying on time and good behavior, or have they been troublesome. Do you want to deal with people you don’t know? These are all things to consider when deciding whether or not to allow sublets.

If you review the above legal ramifications and still think that subletting is right for you, then go for it. Make sure you protect yourself financially and legally, so that you don’t end up in court regretting your decision.

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About Toni Banks

Contributing writer for FSN - As a professional writer for the Legal, Finance, and Technology industries, Toni understands there is an overwhelming amount of information available to you and wading through confusing terminology and difficult concepts can be difficult. Her primary aim is to offer focused, clearly-written information on current topics that resonate with her readers. Find Toni on !

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