What Should You Do If a Tenant Wants to Sublet?

We recommend that landlords and tenants clarify the rules for subletting in their agreements. The more specific the language in the lease, the more freedom you will have to deal with unexpected visitors. For example, you can include rental terms that prohibit subletting the property without your permission (as far as State law allows), including short-term rentals or renting the property via an online home rental site (which is especially concerning if you are in a popular location). If you have the misfortune to forget to include the sublet rule in the agreement, you must negotiate with the tenant and try to reach a consensus.

Suppose you are willing to accommodate a tenant who wants to sublet for 6 months after leaving the area, and you approve the proposed sublet. If you're not under rent control, you can insist on a six-month written agreement, during which the original tenant plans to be away with the new tenant. In this way, the new tenant becomes an ordinary tenant responsible for your rent, not a subtenant responsible for someone else.

You should also ask the original tenant to sign a document stating that the original tenant agrees to terminate their lease. This will allow you to rent the property to a new tenant. Then, when the first tenant returns and the second leaves, you can rent to the first tenant again using a new agreement.

The original tenant may be uncomfortable about you renting to the subtenant directly, and may ask how they’re going to get the unit back if the new tenant doesn’t leave at the end of six months. As long as your lease or rental agreement prohibits subletting, that is your tenants’ problem, not yours.

Think of it this way: by asking you the question, your tenant indicates that they do not completely trust the new tenant, even though they were the one who selected that person. You don’t want to be in the middle of this type of situation. It’s a better idea that the original tenant bears the brunt of any problem—if there is one—than you.

On the other hand, if you want to keep the original tenant's place and allow them to come back after six months, you can decide to agree to sublet. While the subtenant is not responsible for your rent, you can still evict the subtenant if they do not pay the rent. If the rent continues to be paid but the subtenant does not leave after six months, it is for the tenant to decide whether to evict the subtenant.

Tenants can also let newcomers move in. In this case, if you are willing to accept the arrangement, you can do so—but first, you should carefully screen and establish a direct legal relationship with the subtenant. With a permanent subtenant, terminate the original lease and sign a new lease (the subtenant is now your tenant). For temporary subtenants, you can write a sublease agreement signed by three people that expires on the agreed date. If you are not willing to consider a subtenant, or if you find the subtenant unacceptable, you can reject the arrangement and begin the eviction process.