One day you're living quietly in your cozy apartment, and the next, you're wondering how you're going to pay the rent.
Life has a way of blindsiding us in the most unfortunate way, and when our living circumstances are shaken up, it tends to hit hard. If you're facing a financial or personal situation that puts pressure on your domestic situation, it may be worth considering subletting.
Subletting your property could be the best option to give you a little financial breathing room without losing the home that you love.
We've broken down the topic of subletting and highlighted the key points that you need to take away when making big decisions like these.
What is subletting?
Let's make sure we understand what subletting is before we unpack it further.
Should a tenant lease out a property or part of a property that they are themselves renting from a landlord, this is considered subletting.
Their name will remain on the lease, making them responsible for the property and the payments, but a third party subsidizes the rental amount or part thereof.
The difference between subletting and assignment
While subletting is a temporary situation, an assignment is a permanent transfer of tenancy. If you need to break your lease earlier than the rental contract dictates and you have no intention of returning, then you and your landlord would work to assign the property to another tenant.
You are still liable to pay the monthly rent to the landlord in a subletting agreement, and you then recover this from your tenant. In an assignment, you are no longer responsible for the rental.
Remember when subletting that you are responsible for the monthly payments until your lease expires as the original tenant with a legally binding lease agreement in place. With this in mind, make sure that the arrangements you put in place - whether they are an assignment or you're subletting – are legally sound.
Is subletting legal?
In the broadest sense, subletting is legal. However, laws differ between jurisdictions, and landlord agreements may have a specific clause regarding subletting their property.
If you're considering subletting, go through your rental agreement in detail and carefully note what it says about this topic. If there is no mention of subletting, then go and chat with your landlord.
In fact, discuss this with your landlord anyway, even if your lease agreement allows for subletting. Open and transparent communication is always the way to go when it comes to potentially sensitive matters like this. They will almost certainly be able to offer some useful advice and pointers, especially if you have not had a subtenant before.
If it is a grey area, then be sure to get your landlord's permission in writing before you start to advertise for subtenants.
Can the landlord refuse to allow subletting?
Nobody wants the cost and drama of a legal battle, so you'll find that most landlords are going to be reasonable about these matters. They will likely prefer to work with you to find a subtenant than worry about you not paying your rent or skipping town.
Legally speaking though, landlords can refuse to allow you to sublet if they have a reasonable reason.
For example, they may have had bad experiences in the past and wish to select their own tenants based on specific criteria. They may also have access to a list of interested parties who wish to move into the building or area they would prefer to use. It may be that they will let you out of your lease agreement early and assign the property to another tenant.
If your landlord has no reasonable reason for their rejection of your request to sublet, however, then you can take them to court. Not an ideal solution, but it happens.
What if I sublet without consent?
This is one of the fastest ways to upset your landlord and step over onto the wrong side of the law.
If you sublet without consent or opt to make a few extra dollars by renting your space out as an Airbnb, you may well be violating the building's rules and the RTA.
In this instance, you and your subtenants face eviction or legal action from the landlord – or both. Just don’t do it.
Benefits of subletting
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we’re never totally sure what the future will bring. Therefore, having the option to sublet our house when our circumstances change is a real plus. When would we want to consider subletting?
Having a roommate to share costs is becoming increasingly necessary in our current economic climate. Therefore, if your roomie gets married or emigrates, or if you and your girlfriend decide to call it a day, then subletting will be an enormous help. Single-income living is not as easy as it once was.
What if you love your apartment, but you’ve been seconded to Europe for six months? Perhaps you’re at a point in your life where you can travel and explore the world.
Whatever the situation, you’re going to have to leave behind the comfort of your home for an extended period. Subletting is the perfect way to make certain that you have a home to return to. It’s also an ideal way to hang onto your beautiful space while you’re out of town and still have your rental covered.
Some choose to sublet their property when faced with job loss or financial concerns. It’s not an easy decision to give up your home, but it may make financial sense while you’re recovering economically.
Carefully monitoring your money situation allows you to take over your lease once you’re back on your feet, and you don’t have to go house-hunting again.
It's worth noting that you cannot charge your subtenant more than what you are paying the landlord. So, for those looking to make a little extra, this side-hustle will land you in hot water.
Another key benefit of subletting (legally, of course!) is that you don’t have to break your tenancy agreement which is a real plus on your rental record. If you go about this process openly and honestly, your landlord will have no cause for complaint, and everyone stays happy.
Securing the property
Short-term sublet agreements while you’re out of town offer a level of security to your property as a vacant home can attract the attention of criminals or vandals. A physical presence and daily activity in the home is an excellent way to discourage break-ins or petty theft.
Dangers of subletting
When you sublet your property, you’re inviting strangers to share your space or trusting them with your reputation. While your name is on that piece of paper, you are ultimately responsible for this property.
This can come with a host of potential issues, many of which you can avoid by following a few simple steps. What should you look out for?
You can expect that everyone will be on their best behavior when they meet you. So how can you tell the good tenants from those that are going to give you a migraine?
As part of your advert for subletting, be sure to let potential subtenants know that you will be conducting background checks. This should deter those who may have a poor credit record or skipped out on their last rental.
When you have collected the application forms from interested parties, choose the people you prefer and start your research. A background check will uncover evictions or rental issues as well as any lurking criminal history. Be thorough, and don't be afraid to ask difficult questions.
A word of advice: Don't offer your property on a first-come basis. Rather, give yourself the option to choose the best applications.
Stealing your lease
Choosing the wrong subtenants can cost you more than a headache.
Some underhanded individuals love their new house so much that they aren’t in a hurry to move when their lease agreement is up. Once they’re in and comfortable, they may try to bypass you entirely and sign a rental agreement on the property with the landlord when the lease renewal rolls around.
Alternatively, there is the possibility that they refuse to move when you are due back. Having to evict errant tenants is time-consuming and costly – not to mention a very unpleasant process.
Once you’ve chosen your perfect subtenant, ask them to sign a written agreement.
Too many people still rely on a handshake, especially when dealing with friends, but this is always a bad idea. Tenants can have surprisingly short memories regarding matters like rental payment dates, who pays for damages, and the fact that you’re not allowed pets in your apartment block. In some cases, there may be an honest misunderstanding between the two parties minus any nefarious agenda; a written contract protects you both.
Make use of your own tenancy agreement as a foundation or find one online. Whatever you choose, be sure to note down the important clauses and agree on these upfront so that there is no room for ambiguity.
While the landlord's insurance covers the overall health and maintenance of the building itself, you may have renter's insurance, which covers things like your personal belongings, water damage, fire, and theft.
If you’re subletting the whole property and leaving your furniture and other possessions behind, it’s well worth checking with your insurance company as to whether your policy covers a subtenant. If not, rather err on the side of caution and remove your belongings before signing the space over.
Bear in mind, this lease is still in your name, and should your subtenant cause damage to the property it will come right out of your security deposit.
Probably one of the most frustrating elements of subletting is managing the rental payments. If your tenant pays you late then it inevitably has a knock-on effect on your finances which may affect your credit rating or set you up for additional and unnecessary fees.
In an ideal world, subletting would not be a necessity. However, as we well know, some circumstances shake us up and force us to consider other ways to stay financially stable.
Are you financially strapped and unable to pay your rent? Are you planning to travel or leave the state for an extended period? Do you just need a little monthly financial injection to come out each month? If this rings true for you, then subletting may be the answer.
Please feel free to contact one of our friendly agents for more property-related information.