Three Ways a Sublet Could Expose You to Legal Ramifications

Written by Christi Hayes and Fact Checked by The Law Dictionary Staff  

In many states, tenants have the right to sublet their apartments so long as they obtain permission from their landlords to do so beforehand. Subletting, however, effectively turns the tenant into a landlord and can lead to serious legal ramifications if something goes wrong. While there are often plenty of good reasons why a tenant may need to sublet a dwelling, it is important that those tenants understand what the risks of doing so are. Below are just three of the possible legal ramifications of subletting.

Failing to notify a landlord

While laws surrounding sublets vary from one state to the next, in most cases the tenant will be required to obtain permission from the landlord to sublet the dwelling. This permission almost always needs to be obtained in writing. Failing to do so could mean that the tenant is in breach of his or her lease, which could lead to the lease being broken. By breaking a lease, the tenant faces a number of possible consequences, including losing a deposit and even being taken to small claims court.

Property damage

Even if the person subletting the place signs a sublease agreement, ultimately the person who is responsible for the upkeep of the dwelling will be the person who is actually leasing the apartment. In most cases, whoever is named on the lease as the tenant is liable for damages to the property, including damages created by the person subletting the place. Tenants should not simply trust that a person looking for a sublet will take care of the dwelling. Obtaining some sort of assurance, such as a deposit or following up on references, is often a good idea.

Unpaid rent

Again, the person responsible for paying the rent is usually not the one who is subletting the dwelling but the person whose name is on the lease agreement. If the person who is subletting fails to pay rent, then the tenant is the one who could be held liable. Failure to pay rent could lead to legal action, including eviction and litigation if the problem persists. Performing a credit check on a person (with their permission) who is interested in subletting a place could provide assurances about their ability to pay. A landlord can provide assistance with running credit checks on prospective subtenants.

Subletting is a great idea for those who need to go away for a temporary period but who do not want to waste money on a dwelling that they won't be using. However, tenants should always be careful about who they sublet to and should ensure that they reduce their legal exposure in whatever ways possible.

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