What is subletting and how does it work?

Most traditional lease agreements last for 12 months, but sometimes life doesn’t work in 12-month cycles. New jobs, family emergencies, and even relationship changes and long vacations can all create situations in which a renter may need to move early or find short term housing. In cases like these, subletting offers a way to avoid breaking a lease early or losing money on an unused space by re-renting that space to someone looking for a short-term rental. Subletting is also a common practice in large homes shared by roommates. There may be a master lease-holder or holders, who sublet rooms when individuals move out. Here are the basics of subletting a room or apartment.

Smiling man relaxes on a couch.

Table of contents

What is subletting?What to consider before sublettingThe logistics of sublettingWhat’s normally included in a sublease agreement

What is subletting?

If you’ve heard the term “sublet” or “sublease” before, you probably gathered that it’s when a tenant rents their room or apartment to a new person for a period of time. The tenant might offer a short-term sublet of a few weeks or months, after which they plan to return—or they might move out altogether and need to rent the space until their lease ends. 

There are other situations that qualify as subleasing as well. In New York City, renting from an owner in a co-op building technically qualifies as subletting since the owner possesses shares in the building and receives a proprietary lease on their unit

In all of these scenarios, the original tenant’s name stays on the lease agreement and they remain responsible for paying rent, but the new person, or subletter, agrees to take care of the property and make rent payments directly to the original tenant while they’re gone.

What to consider before subletting

Are sublets allowed?

Many leases prohibit subletting, or impose fees, as subletting introduces risk to a landlord. If you’re a tenant who would like to sublet, read your lease carefully. If your lease does prohibit it, talk to your landlord about making an exception, as having you find a subletter saves them the hassle of finding a new tenant and potential vacancy cost. 

State and local laws also have a say about subletting. Certain states or cities allow sublets without the landlord’s approval, but others require the landlord’s consent first. Some allow sublets under specific conditions, even if the rental contract prohibits it.

Are alternatives to sublets available?

If you are looking for a short term, furnished rental, sublets aren’t your only option. Housing companies like Bungalow offer short term and flexible leases on rooms in shared homes. These coliving-style housing options typically offer nicely furnished common areas, and options to furnish your room as well. Because this housing option allows you to lease your room directly, rather than subletting from someone else, you have more flexibility and control over your lease term. 

Do rental insurance companies cover subletters?

The short answer is: sometimes. Tenants who are looking to sublet should make sure their renters insurance policy extends to subletters.

"Lease agreement" written on a notepad with three red markers.

The logistics of subletting

Getting permission from the landlord

It’s customary to give a landlord 30 days’ notice when subletting, but telling them earlier may allow them to help in the search, provide sample sublease agreements, or even assist in vetting the potential subletter. The next step is to send the landlord a sublease proposition, which should include the reasons for subletting, the dates the original tenant will be gone, information about the potential subletter, and a copy of the sublease agreement.

Finding a trustworthy subletter

Many people start by asking friends, family, and any roommates for personal recommendations of dependable people. It’s also common to post on social media or Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and similar websites. Good listings include well-lit photos of the room or apartment, details about the space, a list of amenities, and information about the rent, and the dates the unit will be available.

After securing a good candidate, it’s typical to check the potential subletter’s credit score (no need for a hard inquiry), and perform background checks. Asking for their rental history and personal references (such as their employer and current landlord) are not uncommon either.

Signing a sublease agreement

A sublease or sublet agreement should contain much of the same information as the original lease. It can help maintain a good relationship with the subletter and protect the original tenant in case anything goes wrong.

Staying in touch with the subletter

Once both parties have signed a sublet agreement, the original tenant should schedule a walk-through with the subletter so they can fill out an inspection form, noting any damages. The original tenant should also keep in contact with the subletter, landlord, and any roommates, just to make sure everything is going well.

What’s normally included in a sublease agreement

The document that binds the subletter and the original tenant should include the following items.

  • The legal names of the tenant and the subtenant

  • The exact address of the property

  • Start and end dates of the sublease

  • Rent information—how much a month’s rent costs, when rent is due, to whom it’s paid, and in what form

  • Security deposit amount, when it’s due, and how it will be returned

  • Details about the occupancy area—including shared spaces and parking spaces

  • Utility costs and whether they need to be transferred to the subletter’s name

  • Any house rules relating to noise levels, quiet times, overnight guests, drinking, and smoking

  • An itemized checklist of items that will remain in space

The sublease agreement should also include a copy of the master lease and note that the subletter is bound by the rules in that document. It should also include a clause that explicitly states that the subtenant is responsible for unpaid rent and any damages.

Then both parties will simply need to sign and date the agreement.

Bungalow offers rooms in shared homes with flexible lease terms, so that you don’t have to deal with the complexity of subletting. We handpick homes that are move-in ready and perfect for shared living, and with roommate vetting and compatibility matching, we help you find a home with people you actually want to live with.  Find your Bungalow.

Ready to find your next home?

Move-in ready homes and a built-in community so you can feel at home, together — wherever you are.

Suggested articles

loading spinner
Move in ready homes and a built-in community so you can feel at home, together — wherever you are.