What Is a Sublease?

Rental agreements often are for a specified period of time, with penalties for the renter if he breaks the lease early. However, plans made in January often look radically different by June, and those extra months on a year-long lease can be a heavy burden on finances if work or life is taking you elsewhere. Under those circumstances, the best option may be to sublease your apartment , which means finding someone else willing to fulfill the terms of your lease, then making an agreement with her to take it over. Your state or lease agreement might restrict the ability to sublet your property, however, and it's an arrangement that's fraught with risk if not handled properly.

How It Works

A sublet occurs when a lessee rents the property to another to fulfill some or all of the obligations on the lease. This might occur if you're a college student living off-campus who is returning home for the summer, for example, or a renter who finds a better job in another state. Done properly, this keeps you from paying rent for an unused space or forking over the penalty amount for breaking the lease early. It also might allow you to resume your rights to occupy the property once the sublease period end. For example, a sublease agreement covering June through August would allow a college student to move back into his old place on Sept. 1.


Legal restrictions on subletting vary based on location. In New York, for example, a landlord generally can't refuse a reasonable request to sublet, though what that means could be open to interpretation. On the other hand, in Texas if you sublet without permission, your landlord can evict the subtenant and sue both of you for any damages that the arrangement caused. Some locations require all roommates to explicitly consent to the sublet.

Other states leave it up to your lease agreement, which may restrict or prevent you from subletting. At the very least, most lease agreements require that the landlord be notified and consent to the action. Even if you have greater restrictions on subletting, you may be able persuade him to allow it based on your current situation.

Rules and Responsibilities

For both parties, it's critical to get a sublease agreement in writing. Ideally, the landlord should sign it as well to confirm the agreement is understood by all parties. Without that documentation, you're the only one on the hook for the damages if the person you sublet to trashes the residence. For the new tenant agreeing to the sublease, this documentation protects his rights during the specified period of the sublease. It keeps him from being kicked out if you have a change of plans and decide you want your old place back early, and lessens the danger that the landlord will throw him out for occupying the space illegally.


In many cases, a sublease benefits a unique market niche -- giving those who have property rights they don't need a market in those looking for a place to stay for a short time. Particularly in areas with seasonal demand, such as college towns, this can keep those with year-round apartments from having the space vacant for three months, and it allows those who will be in town for that season to avoid hotels, crashing on friends' couches, or other less desirable alternatives. It opens the housing market to a pool of potential renters who would not ordinarily be interested.


For the lessee seeking to sublet, it can be tough to get the entire amount that you're already paying in rent, since short-term rentals have a more limited market. This means you might have to accept somewhere between 70 to 80 percent of what you're currently paying in rent, according to Forbes. It also leaves you vulnerable if the person you sublet to proves less than reliable. Landlords often go through a defined screening process to weed out undesirable tenants. Most who look to sublease, however, are more concerned with finding someone willing to pay the rent, and they can receive a rude surprise if they come back to see that it was not well-maintained in their absence.


In effect, subletting makes you the landlord as well as the tenant, an added responsibility not all are willing or able to uphold. If the sublease doesn't go well, both of you can be evicted and your lease voided.

If you are the individual subletting the apartment, you also face some potential drawbacks. If your name's not on the lease, you don't have the rights of the original tenant, and you may run into problems if something goes wrong with the property, such as a broken appliance. If you're moving into a house with multiple tenants, meet all of your new roommates before signing anything, or you risk setting yourself up in a situation where you're stuck living with people you're not compatible with.