Legal How-To: Subletting Your Apartment - Law and Daily Life
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Legal How-To: Subletting Your Apartment

As you take off for a long-awaited summer vacation, you may want to know how to sublet your apartment.

Renting out your place is a great way to shoulder costs and, in some cases, meet new folks. But the subletting process can be daunting -- and in some jurisdictions, it may even be unlawful, depending on the circumstances.

Thankfully, there are certain steps you can take for a smooth(er) subletting process. Here are five steps you'll want to consider:

  1. Make sure it's legal to sublet. Before all else, make sure short-term leases are legal in your area. In New York City, for example, it's illegal to rent out a single-family home, apartment, or room for less than 30 days if you aren't living there. Other cities and states have similar restrictions. Violating such laws may result in hefty fines, so be sure to check your local laws before you list your casa on Craigslist or Airbnb.
  2. Ask your landlord for permission. Micro-sublets can potentially jeopardize your lease. That's because most rental agreements include a clause that limits your ability to sublet or have guests stay for long periods of time without your landlord's approval. So check your lease and get written consent from your landlord saying it's OK to sublet your apartment.
  3. Find a trustworthy tenant. At the end of the day, the subtenant isn't responsible to your landlord. You still are. So choose your subtenant wisely! You'll be liable for any nonsense that goes on while you're gone. You may want try to look for a subtenant through reliable friends and/or family. If you plan on using Craigslist or Airbnb, try to interview potential candidates -- perhaps via a service like Skype for out-of-towners -- and consider getting references. It might not hurt to take a peek at his or her Facebook profile, either.
  4. Put your sublease agreement in writing. The sublease agreement is between you (the original tenant) and the subtenant. The subtenant pays you rent and is covered by the same lease terms you agreed to. As for the exact wording of these agreements, your local library will likely carry titles that include examples of subleases; you can also find a variety of sublease agreement templates for purchase online that are tailored to your state.
  5. Get a security deposit. When you're making sublet agreements, especially for short-term leases, there's a very real possibility that potential subtenants will flake on you. Sometimes the ol' virtual handshake isn't enough -- even after you become Facebook friends. To make sure your subletters keep their word, seal the deal by requiring a security deposit. It's also a good way to ensure the subtenants stay on their best behavior. It'll help cover any maintenance or repairs that need to be performed while you're subletting.

Need more help?

Subletting your apartment has a certain legal art to it. Because of the legal implications involved, you'll want to be very careful in how you word your sublease agreement. That's where an experienced landlord-tenant attorney can come in handy.

If you're using a template for your agreement, another option is to sign up for a prepaid legal plan. Some plans, like those offered by LegalStreet, include attorney contract reviews (up to 10 pages) at no extra charge. LegalStreet plans also include unlimited phone consultations with licensed lawyers in your area, in case you have questions about your sublease, or any other legal issue that may arise.

(Disclosure: LegalStreet and FindLaw.com are owned by the same company. FindLaw.com also has a business relationship with U.S. Legal Forms, which offers template legal forms for purchase.)

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