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7 Things to Keep in Mind When Subletting Your Apartment 

By Emma McAleavy
November 3, 2021

Subletting your home can make it possible for you to spend time traveling, at an artist residency, taking care of your loved ones, or visiting friends. It can make your sojourn more financially feasible and can be a way to make sure that your home is being looked after while you are gone. Whatever your reason for spending time away from home, Listings Project is here to help you sublet your space.

Check your lease agreement and local laws

Before you sublet your apartment it’s a good idea to check your lease agreement to make sure that you are allowed to sublet your space. Your landlord may also require notice from you if you intend to sublet. Regardless of what your lease says, you may also wish to check local laws. Some laws require your landlord to allow subletting, for example, if you live in a rent-stabilized apartment in New York City. 

Think about you what you are looking for

Before you post your sublet listing, it’s a good idea to think deeply about your needs. The more information you can share on the front end about who you are and what you are looking for, the more likely you are to find the perfect person to sublet your space. Are you looking for someone to take care of your space?  Your pet? Your plants? Are you prepared to put your personal belongings in storage?

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Photo by Molly Schwartz

Clearly describe your space

As with any listing, you’ll want to describe your space and your situation as clearly as possible. Some basic questions you’ll want to make sure you answer in your description include: what is the layout of the space? Are there any amenities or special features? Is it furnished? Are there hardwood floors, a backyard, skylights? What is the neighborhood like? Are there grocery stores or cafes nearby? Is it near transportation? Are utilities included in the rent? Are pets allowed? And critically, is your space accessible and ADA compliant? If you need additional guidance on writing a listing, you can review our article on how to write a compelling and inclusive listing.

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Photo by Mia Barron

Be fair and transparent as you evaluate potential subletters

It’s important to make sure your process for evaluating potential subletters is fair and transparent. All listers, whether they are posting a listing or simply subscribing to the list, are required to agree to our Community Agreements. Please review these documents carefully, as you begin the process of responding to inquiries and showing your space to potential subletters. You should also be mindful of the fact that utilizing background checks in your tenant vetting process can exacerbate inequality. If you need guidance on your legal obligations to avoid housing discrimination, you can review our article on how the law protects people from housing discrimination.  This article is written with tenants in mind, but it contains useful information for landlords and subletters, too.

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Photo by Christine Gardiner

Put everything in your sublet agreement

You can find standard sublet agreements online, but if you have specific requests for your subletter, make sure to include them in an addendum to the lease. For example, maybe you need them to take care of your plants or a pet while you are away.  Or, perhaps you’d like them to collect your mail for you. Are you okay with your subletter hosting guests or parties in your home while you’re gone? Whatever it is, make sure you have it in writing so both parties are aware. Spelling these things out clearly in the lease will help ensure there aren’t misunderstandings later on. Your sublease should also specify the deposit amount, when it is due, and when it will be returned. In general, we strongly discourage you from making verbal agreements.  Even if you are subletting to a friend or acquaintance, you should put everything in writing so that things are clear for everyone involved. 

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Photo by Bethany Waggoner

Make a list of everything your subletter needs to know

Before you turn over your space, make sure you’ve documented everything your subletter needs to know, that isn’t already in the lease. Does your home have quirks? A finicky faucet, a miscalibrated thermostat?  Maybe there is a stool in the kitchen that can’t be leaned back in. Or does your building’s plumbing need to be treated cautiously? These are the kinds of idiosyncrasies you’ll want to document for your new subletter. You’ll also want to provide your WiFi password, and if possible the name of someone local who can assist your subletter if they have any issues while you are away. If you have a designated repair person or cleaning person who comes, make sure to leave this information too.

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Photo by August Tang

Make space for your new subletter

You’ll want to make sure your tenant feels welcome and at home in your space.  If you can, clear out as many cupboards as possible, as well as any dresser drawers so that they have somewhere to put their things. Tidy and clean your space and make sure you’ve stocked up on household essentials. You might even consider leaving in a friendly note of welcome for your new tenant, along with a list of your favorite things about your space and the neighborhood.

Feature image by Georgia Gleason

Emma McAleavy was Listings Project's Content Editor. During her tenure at Listings Project she brought the stories of our community to life on our blog and in our monthly newsletter. Emma’s writing has also appeared in The New York Times, Outside Magazine, and Architectural Digest. You can follow her on twitter @emmamcaleavy.

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