Subletting vs. Subleasing: What You Need to Know

Rob Whiting
Boom Team

Being familiar with rental terms is important, especially if you’re looking to save money or you need to move out before your lease expires. Now, you might have heard about either subleasing or subletting your unit, but what is the difference?

Subleasing vs. Subletting

Both subleasing and subletting are options for dealing with your current rental unit, but they have distinct differences.

When you sublet your apartment, you are letting a new tenant take over your current lease with the landlord. This is also known as reletting. If the landlord agrees, the new tenant will take over your current lease, and you will be released from all responsibilities regarding the upkeep and maintenance of the unit. Generally, landlords will void the original lease and create a new one with the incoming tenant.

When you sublease your apartment, you will be leasing any available space for another tenant. You can either sublease the whole unit or extra rooms. In this arrangement, you will still be responsible for paying rent on the apartment, as well as any repairs and maintenance as dictated in your original lease. When you sublease to a person, they will generally pay their portion of the rent to you, then you will pay the whole amount to the landlord.

How is Subleasing Different from Getting Roommates?

When you get a roommate, they will also be named on the lease. This means that you share equally all the responsibilities of renting the apartment with them. However, when you sublease to another tenant, they will not be included in the lease. If they cause any damage to the apartment or they do not pay their rent on time, you will be the only one held responsible by the landlord.

Since they are not legally bound by any clauses in your lease, it is essential that you screen applicants carefully. You want to make sure that anyone subleasing your apartment understands the rules and can afford to stay there.

You should also check local ordinances to see if there are any rules regarding subleasing your apartment, as these laws can change from one state to another.

In California, for example, state ordinances restrict the number of people that can stay in an apartment, limiting the number to two people per bedroom plus one additional person. So, if you have a 2-bedroom apartment in San Francisco and you want to sublease the second room, you are only allowed to legally sublease to three people.

When Should You Sublet or Sublease Your Apartment?

If you are trying to decide when to sublease or sublet your apartment, here are some scenarios that might help you.

You should sublet your apartment if…

You need to break your lease early

You might find yourself in a position where you need to break your lease earlier than planned.

Subletting your apartment might be a way to let your landlord terminate your lease early without triggering any of the penalty clauses in the lease for early termination.

You can no longer afford to stay in the apartment

Sometimes things don’t work out, and your financial situation will not allow you to afford the apartment until the end of your lease. If this is the case, it’s better to cut your losses. Talk with your landlord and explain your situation. Again, offering up a subletter to take over the unit can help you avoid any financial penalties such as not getting your deposit back.

You should sublease your apartment if…

You have extra space you don't use

If you’re living in an apartment with an extra bedroom, finding someone to sublease can help ease the financial burden of paying for the apartment.

You travel frequently for work

Getting someone to sublease your apartment while you are away for work means that you won’t need to worry about paying the rent for a unit that you are not using for the moment.

You will be away from your apartment for an extended period of time

If you’re leaving your apartment for an extended period of time but you don’t have to give up the unit, subleasing is a good option. The rent will still get paid and the unit will still get maintained.

Take note, however, that if you choose to sublease your apartment while you are not around, you will be taking a risk. Since the person subleasing will not be on the lease, you are still legally responsible for the unit. If they do anything to violate the terms of the lease, you will be the one on the hook.

How to Sublease Your Apartment

Here is how to sublease your apartment in four steps:

Check your Lease Agreement

The first thing you need to do is check whether your lease agreement allows you to sublease your apartment. Subleasing is legal in all states, however, it is up to a landlord’s discretion whether to allow their tenants to sublease.

Notify The Landlord

Once you have verified that you are legally allowed to sublease your unit, you may still be required to notify your landlord of your intention. Even if state law does not mandate a written notice of intent to your landlord, notifying them is still the respectful thing to do.

When notifying your landlord, include why you are looking to sublet the apartment as well as how long you are planning to sublet. You should also include how many people you are planning to get as subletters.

Screen Potential Applicants

When screening potential applicants to sublet your apartment, you can use the same application process that you used to apply for the unit. Do a background check that includes a character reference, credit report, and criminal record. You can even ask for references from their former landlords or their current workplace.

Remember, the more you know about your potential subletter, the better it will be for you.

Draft a Legal Sublease Agreement

Finally, make sure to draft up a legal sublease agreement with your subletter. This agreement should include the terms of their sublease such as the duration and amount of rent due each month. Get the agreement notarized to ensure that it is legally binding.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know the difference between subleasing and subletting agreements, you can better determine which option works for you. Whether you’re looking to end your lease early without incurring penalties or you’re looking to save money on rent, these two rental agreements can help immensely.

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