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What is a Sublet Contract?

By Felicia Dye
Updated May 17, 2024
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A sublet contract is a rental agreement between a renter and a third party. Such an agreement does not generally link the property owner with the third party, which can create a substantial amount of risk for the original renter, who acts in a similar capacity as a middleman. Some property owners forbid subletting, but others may present it as the only option for people who want relief from a current lease.

When a person rents property, he generally signs a lease with the property owner. The lease is a legal document that usually outlines rules that dictate the behavior of the property owner and the renter. The lease also generally holds the renter responsible for monthly payments and costs of damages he does to the property. For some reason, however, the renter may decide that he wants to rent the property to yet another party. The agreement signed between these two individuals is known as a sublet contract, or sublease.

Some leases forbid renters from signing a sublet contract with a third party. If a renter decides to ignore this prohibition, it can make the sublet contract void. This means that the original renter is still likely to bear the burden of all of the responsibilities he agreed to in his lease with the property owner. If the rents are not paid, he can be sued and if damage is done to the property, he can be forced to pay for repairs. These risks make entering a sublet contract a matter for deep consideration, even if such an arrangement is not prohibited. A third party, even when permitted to enter into a sublet agreement with a renter, may not be obligated to the property owner in any way.

A renter may be able to agree to terms in a sublet contract that differ from the terms contained in his lease with the property owner. For example, he may only charge the third party a portion of the rent. The original renter cannot, however, usually grant the third party more rights than he has. If he is entitled to a single parking space, it is unlikely that he has the authority to grant the subletter two parking spaces.

A sublet contract is not limited to residential property. Some commercial space is also made available to third parties using such agreements. These matters, however, tend to be much more complicated and are less likely to be undertaken against the will of the property owner.

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Discussion Comments
By JimmyT — On Feb 04, 2012

@jcraig - I would take a look at your normal rent contract and try to include a lot of the same types of things that they have. Since you say that your landlord has gone through the process before, you might want to talk to him and see if he has any suggestions about what to include. Any person who has been renting out houses or apartments for a while I am sure has seen their fair share of problems and could probably tell you what to look out for.

Like the article mentions, just make sure that any rights you guarantee, you actually have. The only things I can think of off the top of my head are whether there is any parking and whether they are being charged for it. Something else that will be very important is how to assess damages if necessary. I had a landlord once when I sublet that checked after I moved out and took any charges from my deposit and then did the same thing for the subletter.

I would just look online for a sublet contract template, and that should give you a pretty good idea of what to include.

By jcraig — On Feb 03, 2012

I always hear the terms sublet and sublease. Do they mean the same thing, or is there some sort of difference? I am thinking that maybe a sublet is what the article is talking about but a sublease is when more than one person is on the lease (like for a 4 bedroom apartment). I could be wrong, though.

I am thinking that I might need to try to find someone to sublet my apartment if I end up switching jobs and needing to move. I have looked at my lease, and it allows you to sublet the apartment assuming you have permission from the owners. From what I have heard, people say they are pretty understanding about the process.

If I need to make a subletting contract, what types of things should I include in it besides the price they need to pay and the dates that the contract is valid for?

By cardsfan27 — On Feb 03, 2012

@matthewc23 - I had the opposite experience when I was in college. I went to school in a bigger city where the apartments were split between college students and regular people who needed to live close to campus. Because there was usually a revolving demand for apartments, you couldn't sublet your place. On the same token, though, you could opt out of your lease at any time as long as you gave them 30 days notice. You weren't locked in for any certain period of time. With that, there would really be no reason to need a sublease agreement.

I am guessing that in some cases, a sublet could lead to some interesting legal issues. Mostly involving who would be responsible for certain things.

I think it is a good point, though, that college students are a lot more likely to need or want a sublet, but they probably don't do all the reading they need to know the exact laws regarding how the contracts work.

By matthewc23 — On Feb 02, 2012

I have lived in quite a few different apartments during my college years, and it seems like whether or not a landlord will let you sublet an apartment really just depends on the person or company. The way the sublet gets handled varies, too.

I think it is probably a lot more common issue in college towns. I know when I was getting my undergrad degree, most places would only let you sign a 12 month lease, even if you knew you wouldn't be around for the summer. I always had internships or else went back home for the summer, so I really had no reason for the apartment.

The first place I lived had a good system where they would publish your apartment being available for subletting and would even show it to people on your behalf. They handled all the paperwork and everything. Most of the other places make you do the legwork, though. Once you find a person to sublet, they will make up a contract to protect them from any liability.

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