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The Rules of Subletting an Apartment

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Curbed University delivers insider tips and non-boring advice on how to buy, sell, or rent a home or apartment. Additional questions welcomed to tips@curbed.com. Up now, what you need to know if you want to sublet your place.

The rules for subletting your apartment vary depending on whether you are occupying an apartment in a co-op, condo, or current rental. With a condo, you’re probably in the clear. When someone buys a condo as an investment, they’re banking on the fact that there are easy sublet rules. When it gets to co-ops and rentals, the rules become a little trickier.

Let’s start with rentals. Of course, a quick perusal of the Craigslist sublets section turns up numerous options, both legal and illegal. Sublets can be short term (a few months) or long term (a year or more). Though maybe not entirely kosher, short-term sublets are most likely done without the consent of a landlord to avoid any unpleasantness. I had a friend who sublet his apartment to a female friend for a few months, telling the landlord it was his girlfriend. After the subletter started bringing her actual boyfriend there, the poor landlord wasn’t sure how to tell my friend that his girlfriend was cheating on him. The moral of the story is, though a lot of people sublet “under the radar” make sure you know what the rules are, at least.

Subletting in a co-op is sometimes frowned upon, since a lot of buildings like to remain in the company of long-term residents who pay their bills and have a vested interest in the building. And apparently, doormen just don’t like renters. Some co-ops have rules that allow subletters after two years of residence, or perhaps they’ll let it slide for say one year out of three in residence, and most don’t allow leases of less than a year. In co-ops, subletters will (probably) have to submit a board package and pass the co-op board’s guidelines and interview, which in the end is a good thing?you don’t want to be subletting to a drug lord, right? If this is the case, boards can try to make it difficult and turn down applicants just as they would turn down an unqualified prospective buyer. Some boards (but not many) offer a right of first refusal. That means they can turn down your applicant, but then they have to find someone themselves on their terms or hire a broker to do it, though this is more of the condo’s turf. And, just because they can, they might even charge you a subletting fee for your troubles.

This Q&A on subletting is also useful for further questions.
· Investment Properties and the People Who Love Them [Curbed]
· Co-op Boards 101: Board Packages, Interviews, and Turndowns [Curbed]
· Curbed University [Curbed]