Subletting an apartment is a great way to keep your home if you’re going on an extended trip. It prevents you from having to pay rent on the unit when you’re not actually living there, and you don’t have to cancel your existing contract.
For most renters, subletting is a great option, but there are a few essentials to consider. You’ll likely need special permission and documentation to make it possible. Before going down this road, consider the following:
1. Your Landlord Must Approve
In most cases, you can’t sublease an apartment if your landlord doesn’t approve. You’ll want to carefully read your lease agreement and then discuss the situation with your landlord to make sure he/she approves.
It’s hard to guess how your landlord will feel about subletting. Some feel strongly that it’s not acceptable while others are happy to let you because it’s safer than an unoccupied rental.
Sometimes landlords are fine with subletting, but they want to choose the tenant. In that case, you’ll need to defer to their decision of who fills the unit while you’re gone. You risk breaching your contract if you don’t get the approval of your landlord, so make that a priority.
2. Secure Your Belongings
You’ll no longer be living in your apartment, so what will you do with your things? It’s unlikely that you’ll take the larger items with you, such as your television, sofa, bed, and other furniture.
You have two choices in this situation: Leave the items in your apartment for the new tenant to use, or store them somewhere else. As you decide, consider factors like whether or not you know the person well, the safety of your neighborhood, the quality of the items being left behind, and the security in your building.
If you choose to leave the furniture behind, it might be worthwhile to take out an insurance policy on those items. In some cases, you may be able to get a confirmation in writing that the new tenant will take good care of your property and pay for cleaning or damages.
Otherwise, find a good storage facility, such as self-storage or a friend’s basement. Your apartment might also have storage onsite that you can use while you’re gone.
3. Collecting Rent from Your Tenant
If the process of subletting is completed through your landlord, they’ll draw up a new contract for the tenant to use for the duration of your absence. In that case, the tenant will pay rent and utilities directly to the landlord.
If you set it up yourself, recognize that there are certain risks. You might discover that your tenant won’t pay rent, move out, or violate the terms of your lease agreement with a pet or loud music. Suddenly, you’ll have a major problem on your hands.
It doesn’t matter if you’re subletting to your best friend, your mom, or anyone else you trust implicitly: get a contract in writing. This will protect you if your tenant breaks the rules.
It might also be useful to run a basic background check on the potential tenant. This is what diligent landlords do before renting out apartments, and since you’re playing landlord at the moment, this is a step worth considering.
4. Ask for a Security Deposit
As another measure of protection, you could ask that the tenant provides a security deposit. That way, if they don’t pay the rent or damage your property, you can take the owed money from the deposit.
The best practice is to get this in writing. Otherwise, your tenant might sue you for failing to return your deposit.
5. Erase Liability
Many renters subletting their apartment want to do the entire thing by themselves. Instead of getting their landlord involved, they simply let someone live there without notifying the owner.
If you choose to do this, your landlord may never find out, and he/she might not care. However, it’s a dangerous practice for you if you don’t take legal steps to protect yourself. In the best-case scenario, you’ll be able to remove your name from the lease entirely, making it a brand new contract between the landlord and temporary tenant.
Not all landlords will allow this, saying that it’s up to you to handle the subletting situation. But it’s worth a try if it means you can successfully sublet your place with little risk to you.