How to Legally Sublet Your Apartment

A new job opportunity or spontaneous urge to travel the world are two viable reasons to leave town on a whim. But what about your current apartment lease? Most standard renting contracts last a year, maybe even longer depending on the landlord and unit type, and breaking the lease can cost tenants more than just the security deposit. Simply vacating the property and forgoing the deposit isn’t a smart option – such an action can leave you with a less than satisfactory rental history, risking future leasing opportunities for life.

To avoid losing money or creating bad rapport with your current and future landlords, it’s best to sublet your apartment when you must move. Take the following into account prior to listing a sublease to protect yourself both financially and legally.

Contact your landlord

It’s best to ask your landlord upfront if you can sublet your unit before you start advertising a short-term lease takeover. If the answer is no, try to negotiate a way in which you can market the unit for your landlord in exchange for no security withholdings, assuming the apartment is occupied before the following month’s rent is due. If he or she still won’t budge, review your lease to make sure there aren’t any loopholes, and, if necessary, consult a legal professional.

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Draft a contract

Have a contract ready for a potential subletter to review and sign upon agreement. If your landlord has allowed sublets before, he or she should have a contract available. Otherwise, find a standard agreement for the state you live in online where you, your landlord and the subletter can all sign. Provide a total of four copies – one for each person involved and one for recordkeeping.

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Take photos

Take high-quality, unobstructed photos before advertising your listing to reach the widest audience possible. After all, you’re almost assuming the role of the landlord, and it’s in your best interest to present the space clearly. Be sure to take another round of photos just prior to move-out, in case of any discrepancies after you turnover your lease. Protecting yourself financially in case the new tenant causes any damages is an imperative step of the subletting process.

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Advertise properly

Listing your apartment online is the simplest path to targeting the most eyes in a short period of time. If you’re subletting, it’s safe to assume you’re under tight time constraints, so using apartment listing websites like HotPads can help you find a new renter in no time.

If you have roommates, enlist their help in the new tenant search. It’s in their best interest to get along with a new roommate, and they’ll likely feel relieved to have a say in the process. You’ll welcome the extra help, especially when it comes closer to your move date and you have to focus on other tasks like packing and finding another apartment in your new city.

Subletting your apartment to another renter can be a great way to avoid losing money if you have to relocate before your lease ends. However, subletting might be against your lease terms and could get you into legal trouble with your landlord if you’re not careful. Make sure you carefully review your lease prior to entering an agreement with a subletter to ensure a smooth transition and inform your landlord before your scheduled departure.