How to Sublet a Rental Unit

What to do if you want to sublet your apartment or rental house.

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Interested in subletting your apartment  for a few months while you’re on a summer abroad program? Or looking to sublet your rental house while on a temporary job assignment out of the area? Before you spread the word or post an ad on Craigslist for a subletter (also know as subtenant), check to see if your lease or rental agreement prohibits sublets (called subleases). If so, be sure to get your landlord’s permission before allowing someone else to move into your rental on a temporary basis. Finally, get all sublet-related agreements with your landlord and new subtenant in writing.

Lease Prohibitions Against Sublets

If your lease or rental agreement  is like most, it will include a clause prohibiting sublets without the landlord’s consent.  Landlords typically  include this clause in order to maintain control over who lives in the rental property. This is because a person who sublets has no legal relationship with the landlord, unlike a tenant who has signed a lease. 

Getting the Landlord’s Permission to Sublet

In most cases, you’ll need your landlord’s permission to sublet. Even if your landlord lives out of the area and never stops by your place, or you’re sure your landlord wouldn’t care, it’s a good idea to ask for permission (in writing) to sublet.  See Nolo’s sample tenant request to sublet for a model in preparing your own letter to your landord.  Your letter should make the case that the person subletting is a good stand-in for you, in terms of credit history, references, and other landlord screening criteria.  

The good news is that in a few states, including California and Florida, landlords may not unreasonably withhold their consent to sublet, without a good reason for doing so. For example, a landlord would be justified in refusing a sublet to someone who has a history of evictions for not paying their rent or damaging the rental property.  

If you don’t ask permission to sublet, and the landlord finds out and is unhappy about this, the landlord has grounds to terminate your tenancy for failing to comply with the lease or rental agreement prohibition on sublets (assuming your lease includes this type of clause). Even if your lease doesn’t say anything about sublets, it’s still a good idea to ask the landlord’s permission for the sake of good relationships.

Get It in Writing

If your landlord agrees to the sublet, be sure to give your subtenant a copy of your lease or rental agreement, so they are aware of all the rules that apply to the rental, such as noise restrictions or a no pets policy. And remember if the person subletting damages the rental unit, the landlord will come after you (and your security deposit) to cover the cost of damage repair.  See the Sample Landlord-Tenant Sublet Agreement as a model in preparing your own.

To further protect yourself, sign a separate agreement with your subletter, such as the one included on the Nolo site.

Finally, keep in mind that rules against sublets apply to all subtenants—that is, anyone living in the rental unit (such as a full-time roommate) who has not signed the lease or rental agreement. If you want to bring in a new roommate, your landlord will probably want you all to sign a new lease or rental agreement. For more on adding a new roommate and related topics, see the Living with Roommates section of the Nolo site, which includes a sample letter asking the landlord’s permission to add a roommate.

More Information on Sublets and Subtenants

For more information on tenant rights regarding sublets, subtenants, and roommates, see Every Tenant’s Legal Guide (California renters see California Tenants’ Rights). If you’re a landlord, see Every Landlord’s Legal Guide (or The California Landlord’s Law Book: Rights and Responsibilities).

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