What's the difference between a tenant and a subtenant?
A tenant has signed a lease or rental agreement with a landlord. A subtenant, on the other hand, is someone who subleases or rents all or part of the rental property from a tenant, and does not sign a lease or rental agreement with the landlord. There are a few different types of subtenants:
Savvy landlords want all occupants of a rental unit to sign a lease or rental agreement and typically prohibit subtenants without the landlord's written consent. This gives the landlord some control over who lives in the rental unit and a legal relationship with all residents (crucial when it comes time to collecting rent or ending a tenancy). In a few states, including California and Florida, landlords may not unreasonably withhold their consent to a subtenancy, unless they have a good business reason for doing so (for example, if a subtenant does not meet the landlord's criteria for selecting tenants, in terms of credit history, references, and the like).
For a more detailed discussion of the rights of tenants and subtenants, see Nolo's book Every Tenant's Legal Guide (or, California Tenants' Rights, if you rent property in California).
by: Marcia Stewart