Avoid Subletting Nightmares
By Jennifer LeClaire
June 04, 2008
Maybe you can’t finish the semester due to an unexpected emergency, or won’t stay in town for the summer. But you don’t want to pay rent on an empty apartment, so you figured you’d post a flyer on campus and sublet the place.
Subletting is allowing someone to temporarily live in your apartment to cover the rent while you’re away. While it’s common, you should be careful. “The risks are enormous,” says Susan Hessee, staff attorney at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “If things go awry, the subtenants rarely get sued. The primary tenant is the one that has to eat the loss – and it can be huge.”
There’s a long list of risks to subletting for all parties involved. For the primary tenant common issues include property damage, uncollected rent and even evictions.
“If the subtenant gets thrown out of the unit because they violated some house rules, then you still have to pay the rent,” says Stephen Roulac, author of 375 Housing Mistakes and How You Can Avoid Them. “You also have the potential risk of someone coming into the apartment and injuring themselves. It can be a dicey proposition.”
Of course, the subtenant should also walk into the deal with both eyes wide open. Not all landlords allow tenants to sublet. Failure to confirm the tenant’s right to lease you the apartment could spell disaster when the landlord comes around with a notice to vacate the premises.
A little wisdom goes a long way toward preventing financial loss, damaged credit and the need to find a new home.
The obvious first line of defense for all parties is to sign a written agreement, says Peggie Luers, coordinator for off-campus housing services at California State University Sacramento.