Last month, the New York State legislature introduced a bill that, if passed, would make it illegal for landlords and tenants to sublet their apartments for brief periods of time. The bill is intended to stop New Yorkers from using their homes as makeshift hotel rooms. Whether or not this bill passes, it highlights an important fact: Just because you live in your home doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want with it.
Subletting a space can be a great option both for renters and owners, but this arrangement also comes with serious risks if you don’t handle it properly. For those who are renting an apartment or house, you may want to sublet your space if you have to leave before the end of the lease, either because your financial situation has changed, making the rental too expensive, or perhaps because you’ve taken a new job in another city. In these cases, subletting allows you to find someone who can take over the responsibility for your lease so you are no longer responsible for paying out the rest of the term. Alternatively, the person subletting can serve as a placeholder for you if you plan on returning to the residence down the road.
In each of these cases, there is a proper protocol that you need to follow in order to please your landlord or property manager, and equally important, to make sure that the person subletting from you is reliable and doesn’t burn the place down. Much of the following information also holds true for those who actually own an apartment, home or even an office building and rent out extra rooms to help bring in some extra money.
Work with Your Landlord, Not Against Them
“People don’t communicate with their landlord, which is a bad starting place,” said Joseph Greenblatt, the president of Sunrise Management, a real estate management company in San Diego with more than 10,000 housing units. As Greenblatt and others point out, most leases explicitly prohibit tenants from subletting a space without getting permission from their landlord first. But some tenants mistakenly take this to mean that the landlord will be adamantly against them subletting the space and therefore they will try to broker a deal behind his or her back. According to Greenblatt, this is often not the case. “The landlord is obviously concerned about the risks of taking on a new tenant, but that just means you need to show your willingness to work with them to find a credit worthy sublease tenant.”