Whether you’re spending the summer with family in another state or traveling overseas for an extended period of time, subleasing can ease some of the stress of paying rent while you’re away.
But the actual subleasing process, while simple in theory, can often be complicated and slightly risky, especially if you don’t know your basic tenant rights and responsibilities.
That’s why we’ve consulted landlords and real estate experts to bring you everything you need to know to have a safe and stress-free subleasing experience. Check out the guide below.
Step 1: Talk to your landlord
The first critical step in moving forward with the subleasing process is getting your landlord’s permission. Your lease agreement may already specify whether or not you’re allowed to sublet, but even if your lease permits it, it’s still important to approach your landlord to discuss the matter up front.
Bob Gordon, the Boulder-based realtor behind Boulder Real Estate News, suggests obtaining a written record of your landlord giving you permission.
Step 2: Draft a sublease contract
Before you choose someone to sublet your space, Elaina Lin, rental and real estate advisor at Legal Templates, says it’s crucial to draft a sublease contract that includes everything from standard information like move-in date, security deposit, duration of stay and rent amount to nitty-gritty details that list the consequences of severe property damage and late or missed payments.
Dmitri Kara, a post-tenancy cleaning expert, recommends also including information about utilities, maintenance costs, pets and parking, as well as a detailed description of the house rules and home amenities.
Step 3: Find the right candidate
Who you choose to rent your space has the power to make or break your subleasing experience.
After all, “The original tenant is still ultimately responsible for everything that happens,” says Berkshire Hathaway real estate broker Brett Smith. “Having a subletter doesn’t remove you from the responsibility of rent payment or property damage.”
That’s why it’s critical to pick someone responsible, trustworthy and financially stable. To find options, Gordon recommends starting with who you know. Reach out to friends, family members and acquaintances, then if that doesn’t work, post flyers on the bulletin boards of local coffee shops and community centers, or consider posting a sign with a flyer box on your property if it’s allowed.
“These [methods] will get potential renters that already know and like the area,” Gordon says.
Once you have a few candidates to choose from, conduct tenant screenings. Request references, credit scores and proof of payment, plus an in-person meeting.
To avoid tenant scams and potentially dangerous situations, Lin says “it’s essential to do a background check on each individual, regardless of where they were recruited from.”
Step 4: Prepare your space
To save yourself time and potential hassle at the end of the sublease, Josh Rosenthal, founder of MoveIn.Space recommends doing a walkthrough of your space beforehand and documenting everything.
“Pictures are not enough. Record the condition of items and add notes. Also include model and serial numbers in case something needs to be replaced or gets replaced without your consent,” says Rosenthal.
Also consider the value and quality of your furniture and various belongings when you’re clearing room for your subletter. Are you comfortable with the subletter using your newly upholstered dining room chairs, expensive vacuum or Apple TV? If not, take the time to remove and store these items so they’ll be out of the way.
Gordon also advises combing through your space to make sure you get rid of anything that could be used to steal your identity—things like credit card bills, bank statements, personal files, photos and passports.
While you’re at it, remove anything and everything you’d be upset to see broken or lost—whether it’s jewelry, coats, souvenirs, dishes, trinkets or memorabilia.
Step 5: Maintain communication
Stay in touch with your subletter during your time away to ask how things are going.
“Making yourself available to answer questions or provide help when the subletter needs it can prevent a lot of confusion and blame down the line,” says Smith.