Subletting is when a tenant rents out all or part of an apartment to another person. People may want to sublet their apartments if they are moving and have time left on their original lease, they are traveling for a while, or they want extra roommates to help cover rent and bills. Most lease agreements have a sublet clause that says you must have permission from the landlord to sublet your apartment. It is best to get this permission in writing. Even if the landlord okays a subletter, the original tenant would still be ultimately responsible for the condition of the apartment and timely payment of the rent.
Subletting can be a convenient option for people wanting to return to a particular apartment after an absence, but it requires a great deal of trust in the other people moving in. Tenants should get the landlord’s permission before subletting, preferably in writing.
- Main/Master/Original Tenant: A person who rents a unit from a Landlord and is named in the rental agreement. Pays rent directly to the Landlord, and is the sole person responsible for rent.
- Subtenant: A person who has a rental agreement with their roommate, where the roommate is in the role of the Landlord. Pays rent directly to the roommate. May have signed a Sublease Agreement with the Main Tenant. May have a verbal agreement to be a subtenant.
- Co-tenants: People who rent a unit together from a Landlord. Both may or may not be named on the lease, but both pay rent to the landlord. If you are not named on the lease, but the Landlord takes your checks, a landlord/tenant relationship is established.
- Sublessor and Sublessee: If a Main Tenant and a Subtenant sign a sublease agreement, the Main Tenant is the Sublessor and the Subtenant is the Sublessee.
Responsibilities and Rights
Evictions: A Landlord can evict a Tenant, Main Tenant and/or Co-Tenants. Co-tenants may not evict each other. A Main Tenant and/or a Landlord can evict a Subtenant.
Return of Security Deposit: Landlord returns the deposit to the Tenant and/or Co-tenants. A Main Tenant returns the deposit to the subtenant.
A word of warning: The landlord has the right to evict all the tenants in the apartment if you violate the lease by substituting or adding a tenant without the landlord’s permission. Moreover, the departing tenant may not be relieved of his or her obligations under the lease (and could be named in an eviction lawsuit) unless the landlord specifically releases the departing tenant or allows that tenant to assign all of his or her rights and responsibilities under the lease to the new tenant.
Another issue that frequently arises in the context of switching roommates is payment of the security deposit. The landlord is not required to return the security deposit for the apartment until all tenants vacate, unless there is a provision to the contrary in the rental agreement. Consequently, it generally is up to the roommates to decide how to deal with the security deposit when one roommate leaves.