There are lots of great reasons to sublet an apartment. You are able to lease a space for a short period of time, building flexibility and mobility into your living situation.
You may be able to negotiate a rental rate that is less than what the original renter pays. And as a result, you may be able to access nicer neighborhoods or apartments than you would have been able to otherwise.
The rewards of subletting are real, but so are the risks. Since subletters exist lower down the food chain they are not subject to as many protections or guarantees as traditional renters.
I had a colleague who was never happy after starting to sublet her apartment. She had issues with almost every other person that she sublet her lease.
The issues were ranging from, sharing the utility bill change, not ready to pay for the duration of time the roommate was visiting other cities. Some disputes were even on who was going to stay home for the maintenance work.
She no longer works with us, and I don’t know her present status. You can still save some money renting without having to sublease.
Learn about some of the specific risks and how you can protect yourself against them:
Risks of Subletting an Apartment
Subletting Is Sometimes Illegal
There are some apartment buildings, neighborhoods, and even whole towns/cities where subletting is illegal.
The penalties typically do not fall on the subletter, but they could complicate your living situation and force you to move prematurely. Research the applicable laws before deciding whether or not to sublet.
The Landlord Does Not Know
There may be advantages to someone who leases an apartment to sublet it without telling the landlord. But there are no advantages to the subletter.
If the landlord doesn’t know you are living there, it makes it hard to request repairs and bring up issues. Again, this could force you to move earlier than anticipated.
Always make sure that things are squared away with the original landlord. And be cautious of any sublet offer that discourages you from contacting the landlord or property manager.
Nothing Is Official
Even though subletting may feel informal, it needs to be official if you’re going to enjoy the same protections as other renters.
Make sure to sign a document clearly outlining what you will pay, when the sublet arrangement starts/stops, and what terms the arrangement must abide by.
This is one of the most commonly overlooked issues with subletting. Typically, the original renter wants to leave stuff there and the subletter wants to bring stuff in.
This can lead to disputes about where things go, what is to be shared, and how damage/replacement is to be handled. Pets create a similar set of issues.
Make sure these are agreed upon in advance and explicitly explained in the subletting document.
Issues with Utilities
You will likely be responsible for paying all the same utilities the original renter pays. The question is whether you will pay the renter directly or have the utilities switched to your name.
There is not a right or wrong way, just be sure to have an agreement worked out before moving in.
Subletters need renter’s insurance for the same reason that all renters need renter’s insurance. If the property is damaged or stolen, all or some of the replacement cost is covered so that you are not left with anything.
Subletters are eligible for many of the same renter’s insurance policies as everyone else, you should compare renter’s insurance premiums for finding the right policy at the right price.
You may be thinking you’re subletting an entire apartment only to learn that existing roommates will be living there as well.
Investigate this issue in advance, and if roommates will be present be sure to meet them in person before moving in. You should also establish how many new/extra people are allowed to live with you.
One of the most common problems with subletting agreements is when the original tenant returns home to find their apartment trashed by the subletter.
Having a good sublet requires you to also be a good tenant. Don’t lose sight of the fact that you are living in someone else’s space and have taken responsibility for its care, cleanliness, and upkeep.
This article is not meant to sell you on subletting or talk you out of it. This is your decision. Just make the proper preparations so you aren’t met with any unfortunate surprises.