How Do Sublets Work?

Let's talk about how sublets work and outline everything you need to know about subletting.

What is subletting?

Subletting is a process where a tenant rents their apartment to someone else for the duration of the lease. The terms and conditions of the original lease stay the same and the original tenant's name remains on the lease, but the new tenant moves in and becomes responsible for paying rent and utilities. Subletting allows the original tenant to move while renting out their old space to someone new.

A few helpful definitions

Before we explain how sublets work in more detail, here are a few keywords defined.

  • Subleasing: Subleasing is another term for subletting. Both words refer to the process of renting an apartment or room to someone else.
  • Lessor: A lessor is someone — commonly called a landlord or property manager — who owns the property and rents it out.
  • Lessee: The lessee is also known as the renter or tenant. A lessee rents a room or apartment from the lessor.
  • Sublessee: A sublessee, also called a subtenant, is the person who rents a room or apartment from the lessee when subletting.


Reasons to sublet an apartment

Ideally, when you rent an apartment, you can commit to the terms of the lease. However, life happens and you may find yourself needing to move out prior to the end of the lease. Some situations for moving out early and needing to sublet may include:

  • Getting married
  • Having a baby
  • Graduating college
  • Relocating for work
  • Needing more room
  • Cutting expenses
  • Moving back home

Regardless of the reason, subletting is a viable option to consider.

How do sublets work?

So, you've found yourself in a situation where you need to move, you don't want to break the lease and you've decided to sublet your apartment. Here's how to go about subletting an apartment.

1. Review your lease agreement

Before you start interviewing candidates for a sublessee, you need to take some time to thoroughly review your current lease agreement. You'll want to check that subletting is allowed in the first place and fully understand what you can and can't do.

If you need help understanding the legal jargon of your lease agreement, talk to a lawyer or your landlord. This is a scenario when the fine print matters.

person on computer

2. Make sure subletting is legal in your state

In some states, subletting is legal, and in others, it's not. Laws vary state by state so you'll need to conduct research to understand if subletting is legal in your state.

3. Talk to your landlord

Once you've done your homework, reviewed the lease and state laws, it's time to talk to your landlord and let them know you'd like to sublet the apartment. It's polite to ask, and not tell them, what you're doing. Schedule a meeting to let the lessee know your intentions and go over any and all details that are necessary to formally sublet the space.

You can also send them a formal letter requesting permission to sublet.

4. Find a sublessee

Once you're in agreement with your landlord that you can sublet the apartment, it's time to find a sublessee. This is your responsibility, not the landlords. You can place ads for a sublessee on social media groups or check out different apps that help you search for roommates or sublessees. Just make sure you find someone you trust as your name is still legally on the lease and your reputation is on the line.

5. Determine the details of your subletting agreement

When you've found someone to sublet the apartment, schedule a meeting to go over the details of the subletting agreement. How long will you sublet for? Will the sublessee be responsible for all rent and utilities? When can they move in? Do they need to pay you a security deposit? Get all of the details worked out ahead of time.

sublease contract how do sublets work

6. Get your subletting agreement in writing

Verbal agreements are not sufficient when it comes to subletting. Get all of the details written down so you have a paper trail should things go awry.

7. Coordinate the move with your new sublessee

Have everything in order with your landlord and sublessee? Now it's time to coordinate the details of when the transition will happen.

Pros and cons to consider when subletting an apartment

As with everything in life, there are pros and cons to subletting an apartment. Because a lease is a legally binding contract, you want to take it seriously and really understand the repercussions — both good and bad — of subletting your apartment.

Pros of subletting an apartment

  • Keep your lease intact: Subletting allows you to keep your lease intact without breaking the terms and conditions or paying a penalty for breaking the lease early.
  • Keep your deposits: Subletting allows you to keep the security deposit and first and last month's rent without forfeiting it. You can save a lot of money by subletting an apartment.
  • Ability to move as needed: When you find yourself needing to move quickly, subletting allows you to move and still keep your current place of residence. Perhaps you just need to move for three months and want to come back in 90 days? Subletting allows you that freedom.

Cons of subletting an apartment

  • Difficult to find a sublessee: It can be difficult to find someone trustworthy to take over your lease in a pinch. You want to make sure you trust the sublessee as the lease is still legally in your name.
  • Stressful to coordinate: Planning a move is difficult in and of itself, let alone trying to coordinate with a sublessee.
  • Potential of sublessee backing out: While you'll want to get an agreement in writing with your sublessee, they still can back out of the agreement, leaving you in a bind.

Subletting is an option to keep in mind

Now that we've reviewed how sublets work, you'll know how and what to do should you ever need to sublet an apartment yourself. Or, if you're looking for a place to rent but don't want to sign a lease yourself, being a sublessee may be the right option for you.

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Sage SingletonSage Singleton is a freelance writer with a passion for literature and words. She enjoys writing articles that will inspire, educate and influence readers. She loves that words have the power to create change and make a positive impact in the world. Some of her work has been featured on LendingTree, Venture Beat, Architectural Digest, and In her free time, she loves traveling, reading and learning French.

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