Subletting your apartment can be a great way to pay your rent while you're on an extended vacation or away for work. But there are some legal pitfalls you'll want to avoid.
Short-term subletting is more popular than ever thanks to online services like Airbnb. However, these same sublets are also increasingly leading to eviction and even lawsuits. Case in point: a New York artist who's being sued for renting out her rent-controlled loft; she allegedly charged renters three times what she herself paid in rent, according to The New York Daily News.
Don't let that happen to you. Here are five tips to help keep you out of trouble if you're thinking about subletting your living space:
- Check your lease. Your lease may include clauses that limit your ability to sublease your apartment to other tenants. Violating such a clause may lead to eviction.
- Check your local laws. There may be local laws that affect your ability to sublet as well. For example, in New York City, it's illegal to rent out an apartment for less than 30 days. Your state or city may have similar restrictions.
- Do a background check on your prospective sublessor. As you will essentially be acting as landlord for your subtenant (while still being ultimately responsible for rent to your own landlord), it's best to take the same precautions when subletting your apartment as most property owners take when renting one out in the first place. This means performing at least a cursory background check on a potential subtenant. Depending on the length of the sublet, you may not need to perform a full credit check. But at the very least you should make a prospective subtenant provide references from past landlords and current employers.
- Make sure your sublease is in writing. Like any legal contract, a sublease agreement should preferably be in writing. You can find sublease templates online or draft your own; just be sure to include the necessary clauses. In some cities, you'll need to show a signed lease in order to apply for a residential parking permit, even a short-term one.
- Talk to a lawyer. If you have any doubts about the ramifications or legality of subletting your apartment, it's worth the time and effort to consult a landlord-tenant lawyer who can advise you on the laws that may apply to your situation.
When it comes to subletting your apartment, use caution and do your homework. If you don't, the next person looking for a new place to rent could be you.