9 Steps to Getting a Great Subletter — Stat

updated Nov 16, 2022
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(Image credit: Julia Steele)

Chances are, if you need a subletter, it’s because you’ve got to make a move — stat. But finding a solid replacement — one who makes those rent payments on time and doesn’t completely disrupt the roommate ecosystem — can be tough, especially if you’re under a time crunch. Before you launch a frenetic search on Craigslist, though, here are some expert tips to help you easily find a reliable subletter.

1. Check with your landlord or leasing office.

Actually, this is the best place to begin when you’re looking for a subletter. That’s because state laws surrounding subletting vary, and since your leasing agreement may have its own special set of clauses, it’s a good idea to check-in.

“One of the best ways to make the subletting process easy is to involve the current landlord of the apartment,” says Mark Steele, a broker, and real estate coach. “I have connected with tenants who hid a subletter from their landlord, only to have damage done to the unit and the blame fall solely on them as the primary tenant. If the tenant and the landlord are on the same page and cooperate with one another, the process can run very smoothly.”

But beyond the warm, fuzzy feelings that come with the assurance you won’t be sued or held responsible for a subletter’s late payment, your landlord or leasing office may have qualified renters on a waiting list. The odds, of course, are more likely to be in your favor in a city where rental vacancies are low. Nationwide, rental vacancies are at 6.8 percent, which is down from 7 percent in 2019, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Rental vacancies are lowest in the west and northeast, according to the data.

2. Check-in with the HR office at your job.

Oftentimes, interns who are on a semester or summer rotation may need short-term housing, points out Shawn Breyer, the owner of Breyer Home Buyers, a real estate company in Georgia. Coordinating with your company’s HR office to help provide housing can be a win-win solution, says Breyer, who knows from experience.

“We got in touch with the HR director and asked her to send our information out to the incoming interns when they accepted a position,” he says. “It worked great for the interns because they had trouble renting apartments due to most apartments requiring a one-year lease.” Plus, interns often get housing stipends so they have a reliable source of rent income.

3. Post on message boards.

Play on a recreational kickball team? Or are you a member of a young professionals group? How about an alumni chapter of your university? Many of these organizations have websites and note boards and they can be a great place to find subletters with whom you have something in common, says real estate agent Parisa Afkhami of Warburg Realty.

4. Expand your search beyond Craigslist.

Certainly, Craigslist can be a great place to conduct a search-and-rescue for your lease. But you don’t have to limit your search there. New York real estate agent Alex Lavrenov, who has experience with lease breaks and sublets, recommends perusing websites like LeaseBreak.com, Sublet.com, and SpareRoom, and posting in Facebook groups and Facebook Marketplace.

Once you find a potential subletter on one of these sites, Lavrenov recommends pre-screening to ensure the individual will meet the landlord’s credit and income guidelines. Another option is to try Flip, which can assist with the whole subletting process, which includes finding you qualified subletters, signing legal documents, and collecting rent. The service is free for listers.

5. Spread the word on social media.

One of the best ways to quickly find a subletter is to leverage your social media accounts to get the word out, says Amanda Chvatal, a broker with Spaces Real Estate in Chicago, Illinois, that specializes in leasing. Go ahead, and nudge your friends and family members to share your posting. “A friend of your aunt Betty’s niece could be looking for a temporary place just like your apartment,” Chvatal says.

Simply listing your apartment on Facebook Marketplace is a great place to start, but it can also be helpful to join groups dedicated to rental listings in your area,” said Stacy Brown, rental and real estate expert from Real Property Management, a Neighborly company. “For example, if you’re looking for a subletter in the San Antonio area, try searching ‘San Antonio rentals’ and after joining one or more of the groups that pop up, list your apartment on there as well.” This strategy ensures your listing is seen by the right audience.

6. Hold an open house.

If there’s a lot of interest in your space, hold an open house and let the best subletter win. “Offering an open house is a great way to be efficient and effective in getting potential subletters in your space and likely securing one, if not multiple, applicants,” Chvatal says. When advertising your space, take a cue from your Bumble profile and put up photos that are flattering, yes, but also realistic.

7. Offer a discount.

If you’re having a tough time finding a reliable subletter, and the clock is ticking, consider offering a discount on your space, suggests Adam James, also a broker with Spaces Real Estate. Knocking $100 or $200 from the monthly rent might make the sublet more attractive, he explains. That way, you’re not getting charged for breaking your lease or on the hook for the full monthly rental amount.

8. Cover some fees.

Akin to offering a discount, you can get creative and offer to cover some one-time fees for subletters, says New York City real estate Agent Karen Kostiw of Warburg Realty. This could include moving fees, move-in fees, and realtor fees if you’re in a big city like New York City. 

9. Add a 3-D tour.

“The best way to get a great subletter is by promoting the listing accurately,” Kostiw says. “The description and photos should clearly represent the facts of the listing including building amenities, condition, and view.”  Oftentimes subletters are viewing listings from afar, so adding a 3-D tour to the listing can be a big advantage.