Is subletting your apartment a good idea for you? Check out our guide to learn how a sublease works and how to sublet an apartment legally.


With a looming recession on the horizon in the United States, many people are (understandably) looking for new ways to make money. From starting a side hustle to opening a small business, there are many ways to use the assets and talents you already have in your arsenal. But have you ever thought about using the very space you live in?

Some people use it to make some extra money during a recession. Others need to find someone to take over their lease in a pinch. Either way, subletting an apartment (also known as subleasing) can be a viable option if you have a space that you either don’t need or aren’t actively using. But before you go snapping photos and listing your space on Craigslist or any other popular housing website, let’s take a look at everything you need to know about (legally) subletting your apartment:

Subletting Definition

So what does it mean to sublease your apartment? First, it helps to think about what happens when an individual signs a typical apartment lease. These contracts are legally binding documents between a tenant and a landlord. They grant the tenant the right to live in the space determined in the agreement and protect both parties by laying out specific terms and conditions like monthly rental rates, security deposits, specific building rules, and more. 

sublease agreement

A sublease agreement acts as another agreement that adds a new tenant to an already existing lease. Depending on the situation, this new person (the subletter) could either: 

  1. Live with the current tenant in the apartment, OR
  2. Agree to take over the rent and any responsibilities for the apartment over a certain period of time (as defined in the sublease agreement)

Related: Moving in With Roommates for the First Time: 7 Tips for a Great Relationship

Why do people sublease their apartments? 

A few reasons why someone might want to create a sublease agreement could include the following: 

  • Adding a roommate or significant other to the current lease
  • Finding a new tenant to take over the current lease instead of a facing financial penalty for breaking their lease agreement
  • Not having to pay rent and utilities for the apartment if they’re planning on leaving town for an extended period of time

Subletting is especially popular in major cities like New York City and Los Angeles, given the sheer number of people living there and the somewhat limited housing options available. 

Subleasing Example:

Let’s say you’re an actor living and working in New York City. You moved into your new studio apartment in November, signing a 12-month lease with your landlord. Things are going great until you book a job out of state that runs from May through the end of September. Now, your apartment will be sitting empty during those months. Plus, you’re still responsible for paying rent and utilities for the apartment while you’re gone, even though you’re not actively living there.

What you can do instead (with your landlord’s permission) is find a new tenant who is looking for temporary housing in New York City during that same time period. That way, this individual doesn’t need to sign a lease agreement for longer than needed and can cover the rent while you’re not using the apartment. In situations like these, subletting is a win-win!

Related: Moving to a Big City From a Small Town: How to Adjust to Your New Life

Is subletting illegal?

Laws surrounding subletting an apartment vary by state. But for the most part, it is entirely legal to take on a subletter as long as your current lease agreement doesn’t specifically prohibit it. (And even if it does, some places like New York state that may still allow tenants to sublet in some situations, regardless of whether or not their lease agreement states that they can.)

However, it’s important to know that, more often than not, you can only sublet your apartment with approval from your landlord or the property owner. This approval is typically required in writing and serves as a binding agreement. If you sublet your apartment without your landlord’s consent, you’ll likely get in some trouble with your landlord or property management group. You could potentially even face eviction as a result. 

How to Sublet An Apartment (Legally)

Think subletting an apartment might be ideal for your current situation? Here’s how to go about doing it the right way:

Step One: Make Sure You’re Allowed to Sublet

The most important step in the process is ensuring that you can take on a subletter in the first place. In addition to chatting with your landlord in person or via email, you can also read over your lease agreement for any sections that mention subletting. If you don’t see any clause about subleasing, it’s worth asking your property manager anyway for a definitive answer.

If you’re subletting so you don’t have to break your lease, remember that certain situations may qualify you to end your agreement without financial penalty. That means you wouldn’t need to worry about subletting either way. 

Related: How to Find a Good Roommate (And Be One In Return)

Step Two: Check Your Renter’s Insurance Policy

Renter’s insurance plays a crucial role in protecting your belongings when renting an apartment. But did you know it’s just as crucial for subletting? Meet with your renter’s insurance provider and read over your contract. You may find that you’re not covered for any property damage caused by a subletter. In that case, you should request that the subletter obtain their own policy before moving in. That way, you won’t be held liable in sticky situations.

Step Three: Research Local Rental Laws

Before welcoming a subletter into your apartment, be sure to brush up on the rental laws and stipulations in place in your area. Do you live in a rent-controlled area? Is there a cap on how much you can charge for a sublease? Your landlord or property management company may be able to help with this step. Just be sure to have all of your bases covered beforehand. 

Step Four: Interview Potential Subletters 

Once the logistical aspects of subletting an apartment are out of the way, it’s time to find the right subletter. You can mention your opening to friends and family or market your apartment online to draw some interest. Once you have a few interested subletters, you can meet with them in person and ask a few appropriate screening questions like: 

  • What brings you to [city]? 
  • Why are you looking for short-term housing?
  • When are you hoping to move in/out?
  • What does your typical workday routine look like?
  • Do you have any pets?
  • Do you smoke?

Keep in mind that your landlord might also want to meet with your potential subletters as well. Remember, the property owner should be giving you their approval every step of the way.

Step Five: Draft a Sublease Agreement

subletting an apartment

Finally, once you’ve found your subletter and your landlord has signed off on it all, it’s time to produce a sublease agreement. If you’re working with a property management system, they may be able to provide helpful templates to use as a guide. Either way, make sure you get the sublease agreement in writing and include crucial details like the agreed-upon monthly rate, contract start and end dates, and renter’s insurance information. Don’t just go off of an email, a handshake, or a DM on social media. This should be a legally binding document that protects all parties involved.

Related: What is Coliving and What Are the Benefits?

Is Subletting an Apartment a Good Idea for You? 

At the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide whether or not subletting your apartment is worth it. Will you face a financial penalty if you break your current lease agreement? Are you going to be out of town, out of state, or even out of the country for an extended period of time? Do you have an open bedroom in your apartment that’s not being used? Remember that even if you do decide to take on a subletter, your name will still be on the lease agreement. That means if things go south, you’ll be on the hook for certain responsibilities (and maybe even payments). 

Would you ever sublease your apartment? Have you ever successfully added a subletter to a lease agreement? Feel free to contact us with your thoughts, opinions, and experiences!

Find Additional Apartment Subletting Resources Here: 

About the Author

Emily Malkowski

Emily Malkowski is a writer and SEO strategist with over 5 years experience, living in Buffalo, New York. Having graduated from University at Buffalo with a Bachelor's degree in Communications, her work has appeared in outlets like The American Prospect, Roadtrippers Magazine, Step Out Buffalo, and more.

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