If you’re a college student who rents an apartment, you might be wondering how to sublet an apartment, too. After all, whether you plan to head home for the holidays or the summer, you don’t want your apartment sitting empty, since you still have to pay rent. Subletting is the solution.
So how do you sublet your apartment without ruffling your landlord’s feathers? In this latest installment of our College Student’s Guide to Living on Your Own, we’ll lay out what the experts say about subletting without landing in trouble.
Is subletting legal?
Subletting is legal in most states, says Melissa McKinney, an attorney at the Hive Law in East Atlanta, GA. The one big rule, regardless of where you live, is that your landlord has to approve of a sublet.
“Most leases include a subletting clause telling you whether you’re allowed to sublet or not, and if you are, they usually will have some caveats,” McKinney says. “Must look for the clause [in your lease] with the heading ‘subleasing/subletting.’ They’ll include all the do’s and don’ts in that section.”
For example, your landlord may want to meet and approve your subletter. She might also limit the sublet to a certain amount of time—perhaps just the summer.
Your landlord may even be willing to find a subletter herself, saving you the hassle of searching, interviewing, and collecting a rent check.
Subletting on Airbnb
Airbnb and similar short-term rental sites can be rather tempting. After all, you upload some photos and basic info onto the website, and potential subletters come straight to you! Plus, since they’re often staying for only a night or two, you can charge a premium and possibly even make a profit.
But you’d better check your rental agreement carefully, and make sure your landlord’s all right with it.
“Many landlords who allow subletting nonetheless will not approve short-term sublets like Airbnb, because of the added ‘stranger danger’ that comes with it,” McKinney explains. “It’s more difficult to vet the various tenants, versus simply vetting one friend who’s staying the entire summer.”
You’ll also need to check on zoning regulations in your neighborhood. An increasing number of municipalities are banning Airbnb-type sublets or tossing in extra hoops to jump through, including obtaining a special permit.
“Sometimes the zoning will dictate whether or not you can share your home. Sometimes it’s allowed if you’re ‘living like a family,’ meaning you’re still in the property, too,” McKinney explains. “Otherwise, the zoning board might try to say you’re running a business and fine you for not having paperwork and certifications. With the rise in popularity of Airbnb comes a lot of rules.”
How to find a subletter
Leery of posting your sublet on Craigslist? We don’t blame you. It’s always better to find someone you know—personally or through your social network—to sublet. It’s not only easier dealing with a known quantity, it also provides you more peace of mind. You’ll feel a lot more comfortable knowing there isn’t a stranger using your stuff.
In particular, check for pals in dorms who may be taking summer classes. No friend in need? Cameron Margeson of Spaces Real Estate in Chicago suggests heading to Facebook and asking friends if they know anyone or if they’ll share your post about subletting.
Another option is to ask your college for any listing boards for students. Or, if not, post an ad on collegestudentapartments.com, where posting for sublets costs as little as $25 per month and gets syndicated in the “apartments” section for all colleges within 25 miles of your property’s location.
If you’re struggling to find someone to move in, Margeson suggests sweetening the deal by lowering the expected rent. It will cost you to make up the difference to your landlord, but it will still save you money in the long run if you’re getting at least a portion of your rent covered by subletting.
Questions to ask a subletter
Maybe you know your subletter well. So you can just let her move in, right? Wrong!
Margeson says every potential subletter needs to answer the same sorts of questions you answered when you rented your apartment. After all, this person is going to be using your space and you’ll be depending on her to be responsible about maintenance issues, respectful to the neighbors, and actually pay up each month.
A few good questions to ask:
- How long do you need to stay in my place, and will you guarantee staying the entire time?
- Do you have a job or other source of steady income (or parents who will be guaranteeing rent)?
- Are you willing to share your credit information?
- Will you supply personal references?
How to oversee a sublet
“As the tenant-subletter, you’re oftentimes still responsible for agreements made in the lease,” McKinney explains. “This means that the landlord can still come to you for damages or money due, even if it technically wasn’t your fault. This is why making sure you can trust all parties is important.”
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