If you're looking for apartments for rent in your area, it's generally better to secure your own place and enter a lease agreement directly with the landlord. Sometimes, though, this isn't feasible or desirable for a variety of reasons such as not wanting to get locked into a year-long lease. An alternative is to sublet an apartment from another renter. While this option offers a lot of flexibility and benefits, here are a few things you need to watch out for to avoid getting burned.
Make Sure the Landlord Knows
Before a renter can sublease his or her apartment, the person must get permission from the landlord. Unfortunately, due to ignorance or apathy, some tenants will sublet the unit without securing this approval. This can lead to a number of bad outcomes for you, including being immediately kicked out of the apartment when the landlord learns of the situation.
Even if the renter assures you hundreds of times that he or she has the okay from the landlord to sublet the apartment, it would be in your best interest to confirm this yourself. In many cases, the landlord will do a credit and background check on you before you move in as a way of protecting his or her own interests. Regardless of the outcome of talking to the landlord about subletting, be certain to get the person's permission in writing.
If you're not able to confirm with the landlord that it is okay for you to sublet, request a copy of the renter's lease agreement where it states the person has permission to sublet to others.
Pay Rent to the Landlord Rather than the Tenant
Unless you are good friend with the renter and know him or her to be a financially responsible person, it's best to arrange to make the rent payments directly to the landlord rather than to the tenant. Some sublessors want the sublessees to send the payments to them and then they forward the money to the landlords. It's their way of ensuring the rent gets paid.
However, this can be problematic for a number of reasons. First, this extra step increases the risk of something going wrong. The check could get lost anywhere on its tour from the apartment to the renter to the landlord. Second, something could happen to the renter that causes him or her to fail to send the money as agreed. Third, the renter could simply take the money and run, leaving you to hold the bag of consequences.
Insist on paying the landlord directly. If the renter is concerned about making sure the rent is paid on time, offer to send copies of the receipts you receive from the landlord.
Sign a Sublease
While verbal agreements are great, they're not always enforceable in court. Additionally, misunderstandings can occur when making verbal agreements that could result in adverse outcomes for you and the tenant.
To protect yourself, insist on drawing up a sublease that spells out your obligations and responsibilities, especially if the tenant requires you to put down a security deposit for the apartment. You'll need to know exactly what you must do to get your deposit back.
Some things you'll want the contract to address:
- Whether the lease is for a specific term or month to month
- Start and end dates for the lease
- How much notice to give before vacating (the required minimum varies from region to region. For instance Ontario requires tenants to give landlords 60 day notices on a month-to-month leases)
- The amount of the rent and when it's due
- Whether you're responsible for paying utilities and which ones
Subleasing an apartment can be a very beneficial option for you and the renter. Just be smart about how you go about securing the lease to protect yourself from problems. For assistance with finding the perfect sublease for you, contact a real estate agent.