Subletting An Apartment: Avoid These 4 Mistakes

If you need a short-term place to live, and you find a friend with an extra bedroom who wants to make some extra cash, subletting can be a way to solve both your problems. But it's also a minefield of potential disasters. We've got the biggest mistakes people make that can turn a simple sublet into a nightmare. The information provided here is for general information only and should not be used as legal advice.

4 BIG Mistakes People Make When They Sublet An Apartment

  1. Not making a sublease agreement. Both parties need legal protection, and a handshake isn't good enough. Create a proper sublease agreement so you've got everything in writing.
  2. Not checking if it's allowed. If the rental agreement states that subletting is forbidden, then both parties could end up getting the boot very quickly. Check with the landlord first.
  3. Not checking up on the other party. Even if they seem nice, it's important to make sure you aren't leaving your place in the hands of someone who can't be trusted. You may not be a full-time landlord, but pretend you are and do a proper background check.
  4. Not preparing for inevitable problems. There will surely be disagreements, so make sure everything is in writing and that you have a plan should things go south. It's always a good idea to find an attorney to get proper legal advice.

Major US Cities With The Highest Rent

Rank City State Median 1-Bedroom Rent
1 San Francisco California $3,500
2 New York New York $2,900
3 San Jose California $2,550
4 Boston Massachusetts $2,340
5 Los Angeles California $2,330
6 Washington D.C. $2,150
7 Oakland California $2,100
8 Seattle Washington $1,960
9 San Diego California $1,850
10 Miami Florida $1,780

How Should I Handle The Security Deposit When Subletting?

Normally, if you were moving into a new apartment, you'd pay a deposit, probably one month's rent. The difference here is that you aren't renting from a landlord, so a lot of the procedures for getting your security deposit back become more complicated. If you move out, and your friend refuses to give your money back, what will you do? That's why it's always a good idea to get everything in writing, including a reasonable amount of time for them to return your deposit and the types of damages for which they can deduct. If it's in writing, you can use it as evidence should there be any legal trouble.

The Highest Rates Of Home Ownership In The US

Rank State % of units occupied by owner
1 West Virginia 74.6%
2 Delaware 73%
3 Minnesota 73%
4 Michigan 72.8%
5 Maine 72.7%
6 Iowa 72.4%
7 New Hampshire 71.7%
8 Vermont 70.4%
9 Indiana 70.3%
10 Alabama & Pennsylvania (tie) 70.1%

Do The Same Rules Apply If I'm Looking For A Roommate?

Some people sublet by renting out their entire apartments. If you're going out of town for a few months, you can earn extra cash by having someone stay at your place. But often what happens is that your roommate moves out, and you need to fill that spot with someone new, so you turn to the Internet in order to find a new roommate. There are two ways to handle that situation. One is to request that your landlord add the new roommate to the lease. The other is to make a sublease agreement between yourself and the new roommate. Talking with your landlord is a good idea, because you don't want to do anything that could cause you to get evicted. It may be wise to add your new roommate to your lease so that there will be an official legal document stating the terms of their tenancy.

Resources For Tenants

City State Resource
San Francisco California Housing Rights Committee Of San Francisco
New York New York City of New York
San Jose California SanJoseCA.gov
Boston Massachusetts Massachusetts Laws About Landlord and Tenant
Los Angeles California LA Tenants Union
Washington D.C. Office of the Tenant Advocate
Oakland California Oakland Tenants Union
Seattle Washington Solid Ground
San Diego California Housing Opportunities Collaborative
Miami Florida Miami-Dade Police Department

What If My Tenant Refuses To Move Out?

If your tenant refuses to leave, then you'll need to evict them just like you would if you owned the unit. Send them a formal eviction notice and give them a reasonable amount of time to move out. The laws regarding eviction vary by state, so make sure you're following all the rules. It's a good idea to consult an attorney who can tell you exactly what to do so you can avoid any legal troubles. It also may be a good idea to let your landlord know so that they are aware of the situation.

Metropolitan Areas With The Highest Eviction Rates

Rank City State Eviction Rate
1 Memphis Tennessee 6.1%
2 Phoenix Arizona 5.9%
3 Atlanta Georgia 5.7%
4 (tie) Indianapolis Indiana 5.6%
4 (tie) Dallas Texas 5.6%
6 Las Vegas Nevada 5.5%
7 Louisville Kentucky 5.3%
8 Houston Texas 5%
9 Virginia Beach Virginia 4.9%
10 Cincinnati Ohio 4.8%

In Depth

If you've got bad credit, no furniture, or are renting for less than a year, then subletting can be a good idea, so long as you do it right. Whether you're renting out your place or moving in with someone else, here are the biggest mistakes people make that can result in major problems.

Mistake #1: not making a sublease agreement. Imagine this scenario: the police show up to the door of your new apartment, saying the neighbors called them about a break-in. You tell them you're the new tenant, but when they ask for proof, you can't give it to them. That may seem far-fetched, but if it happened to Ving Rhames, it could happen to you.

A sublease agreement is vital in order for you to prove that you're actually renting this place out. Plus, without an agreement in place, your new landlord could ask you to leave at any time. Good luck getting your money back if you can't prove that you paid it.

A sublease agreement is vital in order for you to prove that you're actually renting this place out.

Even if you're renting out a room to a friend, it's a good idea to set some ground rules in writing. NBA star Carlos Boozer had no idea what he was getting into when he rented out his LA mansion to Prince, who put his symbol on the front gate, painted pillars purple, installed black carpet, replaced the weight room with a nightclub, and even installed a hair salon in a guest bedroom. Since you probably can't send your uneasy landlord an extra $1 million like Prince did, it's best to decide these things ahead of time.

It can be confusing trying to figure out what belongs in a rental agreement, which is why we've created a full guide to subletting, available right on this web page. Get started now beneath this video.

Mistake #2: Not checking if it's allowed. Here's a great idea: reserve a bunch of hotel rooms in advance for the weekend of Coachella, then rent them out to desperate last-minute festival attendees at increased prices. You'll make a lot of extra money, right? Heck, there's even websites that'll help you do it.

You'll make a lot of extra money, right?

But when your guests show up, they may find themselves turned away, because hotels often refuse to give rooms to anyone other than the person that made the reservation because of security issues.

The same is true for your apartment. Tenants get evicted all the time because they don't read the fine print, and some places will use any excuse to kick out someone they don't like. Check your lease and make sure subletting is allowed.

Similarly, if you're moving in with someone, call the property manager to make sure it's okay. If your new friend tells you not to call the landlord, that's a red flag. In fact, if you're going to stay for a while, you might want to ask to be added to the lease. If the landlord's not cool with your being there, don't move in.

If the landlord's not cool with your being there, don't move in.

The last thing you want is to end up with nowhere to live, so do your due diligence. Be sure to read our full guide to subletting. You can find it right beneath this video.

Mistake #3: Not checking up on the other party. That co-worker who seems nice? He could be hiding something that you'll only find out about once he moves in. And remember that you're still responsible for your apartment, so you'll be responsible for recovering damages if your new tenant throws a big party.

It may not be as bad as the case of the guy who rented his New York apartment out for a few hours only to find his new tenant was throwing a big sex party, but as long as you keep your food in this place, you'll want to make sure your new tenant isn't wanted by the law or one of those people who doesn't believe in germs.

It may not be as bad as the case of the guy who rented his New York apartment out for a few hours only to find his new tenant was throwing a big sex party, but as long as you keep your food in this place, you'll want to make sure your new tenant isn't wanted by the law or one of those people who doesn't believe in germs.

If renting, you'll want to make sure your landlord actually owns the property they're showing you. There have been many cases of fake landlords renting out a property and collecting rent for places they don't own. Authorities eventually stumble onto them, but the tenants are then forced to find a new place to live.

Mistake #4: not preparing for inevitable problems. Even if you've vetted your new roommate, people can change, and rent is due whether your tenant pays up or not, so make sure you've got the cash to cover it should something happen.

And don't underestimate the stupidity of people. Tenants have been caught with live tigers in their apartments, as well as all sorts of other exotic animals. There were the people with over 100 bongs in their residence, and landlords who have seen their properties on the news as part of major drug busts. Fail to check up on your apartment, and that could be you.

Tenants have been caught with live tigers in their apartments, as well as all sorts of other exotic animals.

No matter what happens, it's always possible you'll have to evict someone. To avoid a nightmarish fight, it's best to consult an attorney for big issues so you can make sure you're doing things right. For more information, check out our full guide found right below this video.

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