If you ever decide to spend a semester abroad, take a long vacation or move before your lease is up, you will need to sublet your apartment. Subletting your apartment allows you to rent out your home to someone else while keeping it under your name. This involves a legally binding document. Yes, the paperwork can be a minor hassle, but trust us, resist the urge to do an off-the-books handshake agreement—people have been burned by subletters before.
Here’s how to save yourself from paying rent on an apartment you’re not living in by subletting your place.
Check with Other Roommates
First thing first: talk to any other roommates that you might have. Before you even bring up the subject to your landlord, you’ve got to check with the people you’re cohabiting with. Maybe they’d like some input in the process. Maybe they already know someone who is looking for a place. Even if you’re not best friends with your roommates, it’s common courtesy to give them a heads up and give them some say in who they will be living with after you leave.
Talk to Your Landlord
Read your lease to see if subletting is permitted. Afterwards, talk to your landlord (yep, even if the lease says it’s a no-go). Find out what exactly your landlord needs to get the subletting thing going. Your landlord will need to give you written permission to sublet, and he or she may also want to meet with and approve the subletter. You should also find out how many days notice you need to give before subletting and you should know the exact dates you will be gone.
Find a Subletter
As we mentioned earlier, if you have roommates, it’s cool to give them some say in the roommate search. But remember this: the responsibility to make sure your share of the rent is paid falls on you. Choose someone who is financially stable. You can approach the subletter search the same way you would a roommate search. Ask questions. Be smart when searching for a roommate on Craigslist.
Interview multiple people and be clear about the dates the apartment is available as well as whether or not pets are allowed and any other policies that must be followed. Inquire about each potential subletter’s job status and make sure they know exactly how much they will owe per month including bills. If a subletter is not currently employed but you still want to rent to them, proceed with caution and consider asking for a lump sum up front.
Get a Sublet Agreement
Your landlord may provide you with a sublet agreement, or you may use a printable form for your state. You may also want to have the subletter pay you a security deposit and sign a form acknowledging that they are responsible for damages.
Make the Subletter Aware of Everything
Before you move out, give the subletter a tour of the apartment, the property and make them aware of everything they need to know about living there. This includes explaining the rules (smoking policy, quiet hours, pet policy etc.) and giving them any access codes they might need to enter the gate and get into community areas like the pool and gym. You may need to get additional keys or key fobs for them. Be sure that you also write down necessary phone numbers, such as the emergency maintenance number and the landlord’s number.
Don’t Forget the Utilities
This one can be a bit tricky. You can handle utility payments while subletting several different ways. You can keep these bills under your name and have the subletter reimburse you. You can tack on a flat rate to the rent per month (this works best if your utilities don’t fluctuate drastically by month) or you can cancel the utility accounts and instruct the subletter to set up their own account.
Whatever you decide to do, make sure potential subletters know how much utilities cost before they move in. You want someone who can afford rent and bills, not just rent.
Before you leave, take photos of the apartment. Note any pre-existing damage. These photos will be useful if the subletter causes damage while living in your apartment. You can also have the subletter fill out a move in checklist, which you should each keep a copy of.
Rent a Storage Unit
Okay, so you’ve gotten your landlord’s permission, you’ve found a great subletter and you’ve taken care of the paperwork. What are you forgetting? Oh that’s right, your stuff! If you’re planning on moving back in, you might be leaving some of the larger items, like furniture, in the apartment while you’re away. But you probably don’t want to leave everything there. For your security and in the interest of giving your subletter closet space, your best bet is to rent a storage unit. You can find one that’s close to your apartment, and you can even pay the bill online while you’re out of town.