Apartment Hacks US

Who’s Responsible For Damages When You Sublet?

Subletting has become a more widely chosen path for renters that want a little more flexibility in their tenancy – because who knows what life might throw at us?

By subletting a room from the lease holder, you won’t go on the lease, but you will live in the property. Instead of signing an agreement with the owner or property manager, you’ll make your own agreement with the lease holder with terms that suit you both, such as the cost and the length of stay. 

Subletting may be a good option for unemployed people that want to find an apartment. There are less forms to fill out and the whole thing feels a lot less permanent. However, with that flexibility comes a few grey areas. If you’re not tied to a lease and something goes wrong – such as damages – who’s responsible?

Is it legal to sublet in NYC?

Sublets and short-term rentals are increasingly common in higher-end property markets, where many people can’t afford to take on entire homes or apartments due to the price. Instead, they use apps like Roomi to find roommates to join them on a short-term, non-fixed basis to split the rent and take off a little strain.

New York State Law allows most tenants to legally sublet their room or apartment. They do, however, have to get written permission from their landlord in order to do so, as they probably already have a procedure in place. 

There are certain rules around this – and you can’t sublet if you’re living in a rent-controlled apartment – so do your research before you advertise a spot.

Do I need to pay a deposit to sublet?

Most leaseholders will require you to pay a security deposit (and potentially a month or two of rent) before you move in. This is to keep you accountable and ensure you don’t move out with zero notice or ruin anything in the apartment.

You’ll probably need to sign a sublease agreement that will be shared between you, the head leaseholder and the landlord. This includes your names, proposed length of sublease, rent, security deposit and maybe your reason for subletting. The length of a sublease must be more than 30 days and less than two years within a four-year period.

Who is liable for damages?

Technically, the people or persons on the main lease are viable for any damages made to the property, and are financially responsible for making sure the rent is paid on time every month. That’s why renters want to be sure they’re taking on a sub-letter they can trust. (That, and wanting someone they get along with.)

If you’re a sub-letter and you accidentally damage something (these things happen), you may lose some of your security deposit. Usually, the terms and conditions around this will be outlined in your sublease agreement. The best advice here is to respect the home you’re living in and the contents within it, or you could see your sublease being cut short and things can get awkward if you refuse to pay.

In short – the original tenant is responsible for damages. However, many sub-letters offer to cover the cost of the damage they caused, and some subleases may contain information regarding this. 

Can I automatically take over the lease?

If everything is going smoothly with your new apartment and you haven’t damaged anything (kudos!) you may want to take over the lease when the current tenant is ready to leave. In New York, there’s no provision that allows you to do this automatically.

The landlord has to approve any transfers or new leases, so you may have to provide extra supporting documents such as references and work history in order to take over the lease.