If you know you can’t commit to a full year, subletting a room or living in a short-term apartment might be your best option.
Never subleased an apartment before? We’ll break it down for you!
What does it mean to sublet an apartment?
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. Subtenants have responsibilities to both the tenant and the landlord, but the tenant is still responsible for paying rent to the landlord and for any damage done to the property.
In simpler words, a sublet, or sublease, is when the original tenant transfers the lease to a subtenant for the remaining duration of the lease period — typically less than a year.
While it varies case-by-case, it typically involves a lease transfer fee and does not require the full move-in costs that one-year leases usually have. Therefore, subletting a room or apartment is a great option if you value affordability and flexibility.
Who is involved when subleasing?
- Landlord: The owner of the townhouse/apartment. They receive rent on a monthly basis from the tenants.
- Tenant/Sublessor: The renter who signs the lease must pay monthly rent to become a resident of the apartment. The contract period is usually one year.
- Subtenant/Sublessee: The person who may live in said townhouse/apartment and commits to paying the rent for their period of stay. However, they’re not officially on the lease. Their point of contact is the tenant (the person obligated to pay the landlord).
What are the legal and financial responsibilities?
Every lease differs, so you first need to figure out if it’s even allowed. If you’re the tenant, read your contract again to ensure that your landlord allows subletting. If you’re the subtenant, ensure that tenant is following the proper procedure.
Regardless of what the lease outlines, it’s a requirement to talk to your landlord about the fact that you want to sublease. If they allow it, they’ll inform you of the procedure that you must follow — it could involve either a transfer of lease and/or a subletting fee.
Alternatively, the landlord may not permit it at all. Tenants/subtenants must adhere to the decision of the landlord or they hold the right to sue/evict or charge hefty fines to both the tenant and the subtenant from the apartment.
Subleasing often involves a fee for processing the addition of the subtenant on the lease agreement. In case there is a lease transfer, there may be penalty fees for breaking the lease. The landlord may request a security deposit from the subtenant, as well. In certain rare cases, there is no fee.
Read the fine print in your subletting contract: Length of stay, utilities, rent amount, parking fees. These are important factors that all parties must agree on. It’s in all parties’ best interests to sign a sublease contract to make sure you’re protected and have the rules for both parties in writing.
Make sure you know what type of sublet you’re agreeing to
There are two main forms of subletting.
- Both the sublessor and sublessee are jointly responsible for the apartment and all associated costs.
- The original tenant is fully responsible for the lease and is thus responsible for complying with all rules and regulations. The original tenant is liable for any damages and missed payments on behalf of the sublessee.
Read more on the regulations here.
Benefits of subletting a room or an apartment
A sublet isn’t as much of a commitment. Now more than ever, signing on to a one-year lease is something to think twice about. Sublets are much more lenient, and allow you the flexibility during these unpredictable times.
Another pro is that sublets are much more affordable. People looking to transfer their lease will sometimes negotiate on rent. Even a small amount can certainly add up, making a large difference in your overall cost.
And finally, people seeking subletters typically leave their apartments completely furnished, or offer to sell their furniture at a discount. Not only will this save you money, but it also makes all the difference when you’re trying to move in furniture up a few flights of stairs. Definitely a huge perk of subletting!
Benefits of finding someone to sublet your apartment
You don’t have to break your contract. In most cases, breaking a lease is not an option. If you’re committed to a lease, then finding someone to sublet your apartment means you don’t throw money away. Nobody wants to pay for an apartment they aren’t living in.
Another perk is the ability to leave your apartment for a few months, but still move back in eventually. With subletting, you don’t need to give up your apartment.
And by subletting, you don’t need to urgently leave the apartment and pack up your entire life. We all know how difficult moving is in general, not to mention on short notice.
Drawbacks to subletting a room
While subleasing is a great option for someone looking for short-term housing, there are a few drawbacks to the process.
For the renter, it’s only temporary. If you find a great place to live, you know that you’re going to have to move out eventually. So don’t fall in love with your temporary digs.
For the tenant, there are always risks when having someone come into your place when you’re not there, especially if you have really nice things. Think of it like if you were to Airbnb your apartment, there’s always a chance something could get stolen. Also, if your sublessee bails on you or fails to pay the rent, your landlord will still come after you for that missing payment.
What to keep in mind while searching for sublet?
Make sure a sublet is the best option for your circumstances: Will you live in this apartment for less than a year? Do you want to avoid upfront costs that come with a full-year lease? Do you want flexibility? If you answered yes to these questions, you should definitely consider subleasing an apartment.
Make sure to start early. If you’re seeking a sublet for the spring semester, now’s the perfect time to start. It’s best to give yourself at least two months when starting your apartment search. Oftentimes, people with available apartments start searching for a subletter two months in advance, while others leave it until the last minute. To give yourself ample time to find an apartment that fits your budget, location and lifestyle, start your search early.
And remember, there may be a lot of competition. When you start early, you get in touch with more people looking for a place to sublet. That gives you more choices in terms of who you want to have living in your room. By giving yourself time, you’ll have the opportunity to get to know them. Ask them all the important questions: Background checks? Will they pay on time? Is your landlord OK with it? Will they keep your room clean? Are your roommates OK living with them?
How can I find a short-term rental?
Now more than ever, there are various platforms to use to search for sublets or short-term rentals.
- Facebook is great if you want to write a short description of your apartment and post a few pictures for more elaboration. It’s also great for networking due to the sheer volume of people using the platform for the purpose of seeking/subletting an apartment. However, if you’re the one finding a room/apartment, you’re bound to spend hours on your Facebook timeline reading every little detail to find your perfect fit. This happens because, in the post format, the information is not standardized.
- If you want an interactive experience, Hoamsy is a Boston-based platform that uniquely allows you to list and find sublets. Once you make a profile, you’ll get personalized leads based on your preferences. Once you find a match, you can directly connect with them through Hoamsy’s direct messaging feature. It’s a great resource for people looking to find sublets.
- Apartment rental sites like Apartment Guide and Rent. are good platforms to use if you have a very specific apartment in mind. You can filter your search to show only properties that offer short-term rentals. They also have listings available in most major cities and give you a ton of guidance on all aspects of moving on their blogs.
Enjoy your freedom of subletting a room
It’s always good to have options and flexibility and subletting a room definitely gives you the opportunity to do that. Just much sure you understand the process before you get started, and get permission from your landlord before doing anything!
The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal or financial advice. Readers are encouraged to seek professional legal or financial advice as they may deem it necessary.