Safe and Smart: How To Sub-Lease Your Apartment The Right Way

published Aug 20, 2015
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(Image credit: Monica Wang)

Need to be away for a while but don’t want to eat a chunk of rent? You might be in the market for a sub-leaser. Letting someone in your home comes with plenty of issues so let’s wade through them together. Read on.

Clear your plans with your lease or your landlord

You have a set of guidelines for your tenancy; it’s your lease. Check it to see the rules for sub-leasing. In the event that it’s not addressed, you really need to bring it up with your landlord. It’s might be tempting to avoid asking out of fear your plea will be turned down, but sneaking in a sub-lease can backfire big time. You don’t know what will go down while you’re away. If you get caught sub-leasing when it’s against the rules, you could come home to an eviction notice.

Mirror your own move-in: sign a lease and take a deposit

When you find a perfect tenant for your sub-lease, you’ll want to get everything squared away the same way your landlord did when you moved in. Do a walk through with your tenant and agree to the terms of the arrangement (including the deposit amount). Then put everything writing, sign and date it. No matter what. Even if it’s a friend of a friend, your cousin or your mom. Everything is easier if the expectations are clearly written down for each party to refer to.

Prevent problems: remove your valuables and document the condition of your apartment

Play it safe and protect yourself from the potential problems of theft and damage. Find a friend, family member or professional storage facility to hang onto your valuables while you’re away. Then snap some photos of your place’s current condition. If something does go wrong you need to be able to show the contrast between how you left the space and its current condition (especially if you need to keep the deposit to cover the damage). This might seem like an unnecessary step, but it’s well worth a few minutes of your time to save hours of headaches later.

Leave written directions

Are there certain things your sub-letter should know about your apartment? Maybe the shower needs an extra firm hand to keep it from dripping? Maybe your pots can only be cleaned with a certain kind of scrubber. Write it down! Even if you’ve mentioned all this stuff during your walk through, it’ll be nice for your tenant to have specific instructions to refer to if problems arise. On the same document, leave all your contact information, the building management and any local emergency numbers that might be needed (especially if your tenant is new to the area). It’s helpful and will also protect your apartment. Win win!

Charge a cleaning fee

You want to come home to a nice, clean apartment so make a professional cleaning upon move out part of the lease agreement. This is especially important if you are sub-leasing to more than one tenant; each person deserves a nice, fresh start!

Experienced sub-leasers, time to give us the benefit of your experience. What are your best tips to help the process go smoothly?