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Subletting: What You Need to Know

Imagine you've decided to study abroad for a semester. You're all set to go, except for one tiny detail: you're locked into a yearlong lease for an apartment that you now won't be living in for five months.

Or maybe you've just landed your dream summer internship, but it requires living in a different city for 10 weeks. You don't want to pay rent on an apartment that you won't be living in, and you certainly don't want to get stuck with two rental payments.

Fortunately, though it can at times seem overwhelming, there is a reasonable solution: subletting.

What is subletting:

Essentially, subletting allows another tenant to temporarily take over your apartment and alleviates some of the financial burdens that you otherwise would face.

In the words of Devon Thorsby, a writer for USNews, this means you will be "taking on the role of a landlord, while still being liable for costs to your own landlord if something goes wrong."

Subletting requires a good deal of responsibility, so to ensure the process goes smoothly, stick to a few simple guidelines:

Check with your landlord or building management

Every landlord has different rules when it comes to subletting, so your first step should always be to check with them and to review your lease to see what regulations you'll need to follow.

Subletting without your landlord's knowledge or permission can get you into trouble, so it's best to make them aware of your plans right from the start. They may also have certain requirements regarding subtenants and the subletting process; for instance, some landlords or building management require background checks for all residents.

You might also want to check with your landlord for some advice in terms of what to look for in a subtenant--after all, they have plenty of experience.

Check with your roommates

If you have any roommates, their interest in finding a good subtenant will probably be equal to yours, considering they'll be the ones living with your chosen subtenant. For this reason, it's a good idea to include them in the process from the beginning.

When you make the decision to sublet, check to make sure your roommates are okay with it and discuss any concerns that they might have. It's also a good idea to have a conversation about what kind of person they would be comfortable living with. In addition to being courteous, this may help you narrow down your pool of prospective subtenants.

Look for a trustworthy subtenant

One of the risks involved with subletting is that you will still be held responsible for ensuring your subtenant pays the rent for your apartment each month and that you cover any damages to the property. For that reason, it'll be to your benefit to find a subtenant who is reliable and financially responsible.

When you find a possible subtenant, ask if there's someone who can vouch for their trustworthiness. You might also want to ask them to set down a security deposit, as this will hold them responsible to the agreement and can also be used if they cause any damage to the property.

When you're ready to look for a subtenant, the best place to start is by asking around among your friends or in any clubs you take part in to see if anyone you know is looking for a place to stay. That way, you can easily find a reference as to that person's reliability.

Advertise your apartment appropriately

If you haven't had any luck finding a subtenant among your circles of friends, social media is a great resource for advertising your apartment. There are also various websites where you can look for subtenants, such as Uloop, Craigslist, and Sublet.

When posting an advertisement for your apartment, it's always a good idea to include pictures so anyone interested can get an idea of the size of the space, the layout, and the furniture (if you're planning to leave the apartment furnished). You'll want to clean up before you take pictures, as those that you post with your advertisement will play a large role in the kind of subtenants who are interested.

If for instance, you post pictures of messy rooms, you're sending out the message that the subtenant does not need to keep the apartment clean. This means you will likely attract a messier subtenant. Showing a clean apartment, however, gives any prospective subtenants an idea of your expectations for how they should take care of the apartment.

You'll also want to include any important or distinguishing features that your building and apartment have. For instance, if you live close to campus, that's a great benefit that you can highlight to generate interest. If your building has any amenities such as a gym, mention that as well.

It's also a good idea to include details about your expectations in the advertisement — if you're planning to leave your apartment furnished, for instance, or what kind of subtenant you're hoping to find.

Determine your price

When you're subletting, you cannot always expect to receive the full amount of your monthly rent from your subtenant. While you can always ask for it when you first advertise your apartment, you may have to decrease the price to generate more interest.

According to Forbes, it is safe to expect about 70-80 percent of your normal rental payment. You will also have to determine the process for paying your utilities — for instance, if you're going to continue paying them yourself then have your subtenant reimburse you, or if they will have to set up utility accounts themselves.

Interview your potential subtenants

Before you officially commit to a subtenant, arrange a meeting with them. You can use this time to assess them for yourself and to determine if this is someone you can trust to live in your apartment. Meeting face-to-face will give you the chance to discuss the details of your sublet agreement, such as payment and move-in and move out dates. Familiarize them with the rules of your building as well — you don't want to find out at the last minute that they have a dog and your building prohibits pets.

Your roommates may also want to meet with your subtenant in person so they can get to know each other and have an idea of who they will be living with.

Sign an agreement

Once you've found the perfect subtenant, you should draw up a sublet agreement for your landlord and building manager to sign, as well as you and your subtenant. Your landlord may provide this agreement, or you can find your own online.

Remember to reach an agreement regarding utilities and to include that in your sublet agreement. It's also a good idea to take some pictures of your apartment before you move out, so your subtenant is aware of the apartment's initial condition and so you have proof if anything gets damaged. Once you've signed the paperwork, you've officially taken on the new role of landlord for your apartment.

Amy Culver |
Amy is our Lead Copywriter at Snagajob, where she loves to use her word nerd powers to help workers and employers connect. Her first hourly job was as a cashier at Chick-fil-a.