The Residential Sublease Agreement is a contract whereby a lessee or tenant rents out the leased property or some part of it to another person, the sublessee. This agreement is valid and binding even on the landlord, except when the original lease between the landlord and tenant prohibits or does not allow subletting.
State-Specific Sublease Agreement Templates
What is a Residential Sublease Agreement?
A residential sublease agreement is where a tenant leases their rental unit (or part of their rental unit) to another tenant.
A “subtenant” is the person the original tenant has the sublease agreement with. This is the person who is taking over the rental unit, or just using part of the rental unit, like an extra bedroom.
A “sublandlord” or “sublessor” is the original tenant who is subleasing the rental unit to someone else.
For example, Mary has a three-bedroom apartment. Her other expenses are increasing, and she wants to find a way to reduce her costs. She isn’t using the third bedroom and decides to rent it out to someone. She becomes a sublandlord, and the person she rents her third bedroom to is the new subtenant.
Prior to subleasing, the original tenant may be required to get permission from their landlord, depending on the state the rental unit is located in, since the original rental agreement is between the tenant and landlord only, and not the tenant and any additional tenants they choose to rent to at a later date.
Check the provisions of the original, or “master,” lease—does it allow tenants to sublease? If the master lease is silent on subleases, then most states allow a tenant to sublease.
However, if the tenant doesn’t have the landlord’s permission to sublease, it’s possible that any additional occupants could be forced to leave, which is why we recommend always consulting with the landlord before subleasing.
Most states don’t allow a sublease to extend beyond the length of the master lease agreement. That means that if the master lease ends on July 31, the sublease must also end on July 31 or sooner.
Keep in mind, not all states require written rental agreements, whether master leases or sublease agreements. However, we can’t say enough that it’s in everyone’s best interest to put it in writing.
Usually, the subtenant pays rent directly to the sublandlord, without the original landlord getting involved in the financial side of things. However, sometimes the subtenant pays rent directly to the original landlord. It just depends on the terms of the sublease agreement.
A few states limit the amount of rent the subtenant can pay, and typically rent cannot be more than what the tenant currently pays for the rental unit.
The original tenant still has to pay rent to the landlord, even if the subtenant fails to make any payments.
Back to our example, if Mary’s subtenant agrees to pay $100/month to rent the third bedroom, but then doesn’t make any payments to Mary, Mary would still be responsible for making full rent payments to the landlord.
Because the master lease is between the landlord and the original tenant, the original tenant would be liable for any damages caused by their subtenant.
However, nothing prohibits tenants from asking their subtenant to provide a security deposit to cover damages in case something happens during the time the subtenant lives in the rental unit.
Just like any lease, a sublease should include the amount of a security deposit, what it may be used for, and when and how the subtenant can get it back.
When to Use a Sublease Agreement
There are a few different scenarios in which someone might want or need to sublease their rental unit, such as:
- Needing to move before the rental agreement terminates
- Financial necessity
- Family/friend necessity
If someone has to leave their rental unit before the end of the rental agreement due to a job relocation, for health reasons, or to help with a family emergency, among others, they may want to sublease the unit to earn back some of the money they’re spending to rent an apartment they aren’t living in.
Or, as in our example with Mary, some renters may find themselves in a tough financial situation and need the extra income a subtenant could provide.
Some renters end up with more living space than they know what to do with, and like to have a subtenant for companionship and to use up the extra room.
Finally, there may be situations in which a tenant is the only person their friend or family member can stay with, and the tenant may need to sublease the rental unit to the friend/family member in order for them to stay long-term.
These examples don’t cover every scenario, of course, but give a general idea of when someone may want or need to sublet a rental unit.
Signing a Sublease Agreement
Typically, the tenant and subtenant would both sign the sublease agreement, and in some states, the landlord is also required to sign the agreement. However, many states don’t specify sublease requirements, and in some states, the agreement could be verbal.
As mentioned earlier, we strongly recommend putting everything in writing, however, as this will protect the interests of all concerned if anything happens.
Disclosures in Sublease Agreements
Because a residential sublease agreement is just a rental agreement, tenants who sublease may need to provide their subtenant with all of the same disclosure forms they received from the landlord, such as a lead-based paint disclosure.
Most states view the tenant who is subleasing their rental unit as a landlord, so any landlord-specific laws in their state would also apply to the tenant in this case. That responsibility includes understanding what the law says about providing disclosures for rental units.
As the required disclosures vary from state to state, it’s wise to understand what a tenant would be required to give to a subtenant. We include some of the most commonly required disclosures by state in the chart below.
This doesn’t mean that local governments don’t have additional required disclosures, and the disclosures in this chart are in addition to all required Federal disclosures, such as lead-based paint disclosures for any rental unit built prior to 1978.
|State||State-Specific Required Disclosures|
|California||Tenants must be informed if:
1) The rental unit was used for the production of methamphetamines
|Connecticut||Tenants must be informed whether the rental unit contains a sprinkler system or not, and when it was last serviced.|
|Georgia||Tenants must be informed if the rental unit has flooded three times (or more) in the past five years.|
|Illinois||Tenants must be informed if the rental unit contains unacceptable levels of radon.|
|Indiana||Tenants must be informed if the rental unit is in a flood plain.|
|Iowa||Tenants must be informed whether the rental unit is part of a “Superfund” hazardous waste site.|
|Maine||Tenants must be informed if the rental unit contains unacceptable levels of radon.|
|Missouri||Tenants must be informed if the rental unit was used in the production of methamphetamines.|
|Oregon||Tenants must be informed if the rental unit is in a 100-year flood plain.|
|South Dakota||Tenants must be informed if the rental unit was used in the production of methamphetamines.|
|Utah||Tenants must be informed if the rental unit is currently being used for the production of methamphetamines.|
|Virginia||Tenants must be informed about:
|Washington||Tenants must be given information about the dangers of indoor mold and how they can prevent mold growth.|
|Wisconsin||Tenants must be informed if the rental unit doesn’t have:
And if the unit has structural issues.
Now that you know a few of the things required of tenants who would like to sublease their rental units, and why someone would want or need to sublease, let’s take a look at next steps.
Tenants. What do tenants need to do to get the ball rolling on the sublease process? We take a look at each step in order below.
Step 1. Typically, the first step is for tenants to get permission from their landlord to sublease, or at least notify the landlord of their intention to sublease.
Some states require tenants to send the landlord a written request to sublease, while others only require tenants to get their landlord’s permission (in writing or verbally) in certain circumstances, and some states don’t require this at all.
Note that if a state’s rental laws don’t address subleasing, then a tenant is typically allowed to sublease unless the rental agreement specifically prohibits it.
We recommend at least alerting the landlord of a tenant’s intention to sublease when permission isn’t required so there are no surprises down the line.
Step 2. Although not required in all states, it’s always a good idea to put the sublease agreement in writing, covering things like rent amount and due date, sublease termination date, and how to report issues with the rental unit, for starters.
The tenant may want to review the sublease with their landlord to be sure it complies with the master lease agreement and that there’s nothing the tenant has accidentally failed to include.
Step 3. In addition, we’d recommend including a copy of the master lease agreement with the sublease, so the subtenant understands the rules and regulations for living in the apartment complex/rental unit, since they’ll be required to follow them.
Step 4. It may also be a good idea for the tenant and/or landlord to perform the same screening process on the subtenant that all of the landlord’s other tenants go through.
Subtenants. Typically, the subtenant signs a written sublease agreement (although this is not required in all states), and depending on the master lease agreement or state law, the subtenant may also be required to complete a rental application form prior to being approved to sublease.
Subtenants should do their homework on the rental community, understand the master lease agreement’s provisions, and at least meet with the tenant they’ll be renting from/view the rental unit prior to agreeing to sublease.
Some good questions to ask are:
- What’s the pet policy?
- Is there a smoking policy?
- Will a security deposit be required?
- What about parking?
Landlords. Landlord involvement depends on the state in which the rental unit is located and the terms of the master lease agreement. The landlord may be allowed (or required) to give final approval to a subtenant, and perform the screening process prior to allowing the subtenant to move in.
We examine how various states handle this below. Note that any state not included here leaves the subleasing process up to counties, municipalities, or local landlords via the rental agreement.
State-Specific Subletting Regulations
In Alaska, subtenants are required to submit a written sublease “offer request” to the landlord (not the tenant who wants to sublease) that includes the following information:
- Subtenant’s name, age, and current address
- Current employer and employer’s contact information
- Number of people who will occupy the rental unit
- Two credit references
- Names and contact information for subtenant’s prior landlords (past three years only)
In California and Delaware, tenants are not allowed to sublease unless the rental agreement specifically allows them to do so, or the landlord can terminate their lease.
As long as a lease doesn’t specifically prohibit it, then Idaho tenants are allowed to sublease.
In Illinois, landlords are not allowed to prohibit subleases, and any rental agreement with such a provision could be challenged in court.
Kansas and Montana tenants must get written permission from their landlord prior to subleasing.
In Massachusetts, tenants are prohibited from subleasing a rental unit if it isn’t specifically allowed in the rental/lease agreement.
In Missouri, tenants must get written permission from their landlord in order to sublease. If a tenant subleases the rental unit without permission, the landlord can double the rent.
In New Mexico, the tenant only needs to get a landlord’s permission to sublease if the master lease agreement prohibits subleasing.
In New York:
- Tenants must put their request to sublease in writing to the landlord and send it via certified mail.
- The request must contain: a copy of the sublease, contact information for the subtenant, why the tenant wants to sublease, updated contact information for the tenant (if moving), and length of the sublease.
- The landlord has 10 days to request additional information after receiving the request.
Any provisions in a master lease that prohibit subleasing are void in New York.
In Oregon, subleases are referred to as “temporary occupancy” agreements, and the tenant, subtenant, and landlord must agree in writing on all terms of the sublease.
In South Carolina, any sublease entered into without the written permission of the landlord is invalid.
In Texas, tenants only need to get their landlord’s written permission to sublease if the master lease agreement doesn’t address (or prohibits) subleasing.
If a Texas tenant subleases the rental unit without the landlord’s permission (either in the master lease or in a separate document), the landlord has the right to evict the subtenant and sue both the tenant and subtenant for damages.
In Wisconsin, if the master lease is for a year or less, then tenants must get their landlord’s permission before subleasing. Otherwise, tenants are allowed to sublease without getting permission first unless their rental agreement specifically prohibits it.
Sublease Form Elements
While residential sublease agreements may vary from state to state, there are a few elements that are fairly standard among forms.
A sublease agreement will typically contain all the elements of a regular rental agreement, because it’s a rental agreement between a tenant and their tenant.
Before drafting or using a sublease agreement, remember that landlords aren’t necessarily required to accept/approve them, depending on which state you live in.
We break down some common elements of residential sublease agreement forms in more detail below, and explain why they might be included on one.
|Residential Sublease Agreement Form Element||Why It Would Be Included|
|Party Information||To clarify who is the landlord, the original tenant, and the subtenant, and to give contact information for each.|
|Master Lease Agreement Terms||To ensure the subtenant is aware of the terms of the master lease.|
|Length of the Sublease||To clarify how long the subtenant can occupy the rental unit.|
|Subtenant’s Rent Amount/Terms||Shows how much the subtenant owes, when rent is due, whether to pay original tenant or landlord, and how to pay.|
|Security/Damage Deposit Amount (if required)||Offers some protection for the tenant if their subtenant causes any damage to the rental unit, since the original tenant must pay the landlord for any damages regardless of who caused them.|
|Whether Subtenant Can Alter/Make Improvements to Rental Unit||So there are no surprises if the subtenant wants to nail something into a wall, paint a room, etc.|
|Utility Payment Information||To clarify whether the subtenant is responsible for paying for utilities and what portion they must pay for.|
|Maintenance/Repair Duties||Clarifies who (landlord, tenant, subtenant) is responsible for which aspects of maintenance and/or repairs for the rental unit.
Note: many states allow landlords and tenants/ subtenants to determine maintenance and repair responsibilities in a lease/rental agreement.
|Rental Insurance Information (if required)||Tenants may require their subtenants to provide renter’s insurance for the subtenant’s own things.|
|Rental Property Information||The actual unit/part of unit the subtenant is renting.|
|Rental Unit Inspection Checklist||For tenant and subtenant to have a written list of any existing damage to the rental property.|
|Landlord/Sublandlord Entry Rights||Indicates (according to state law) the circumstances under which the landlord/sublandlord may access the rental unit leased by subtenant, when, and how much notice is required before entering.|
|Pet Deposit Amount/Pet Policy||For subtenant to understand whether pets are allowed and the amount of the pet deposit, if any.|
|Late Fees||Tenants should determine whether they’ll assess late fees if their subtenant fails to pay rent on time.|
|Parking Information/Fees||So the subtenant knows if they’re allowed to park on the premises, whether they have their own assigned parking space, or will owe parking fees.|
|Smoking Policy||Is subtenant allowed to smoke in the subleased rental unit? On the apartment/complex grounds?|
|Storage Options/Information||If the rental unit has on-site storage, off-site storage, or no storage under the lease.|
|Signatures/Date||At the very least, should have tenant and subtenant signatures; some states may require the landlord to sign, too.|
|Reasons Lease May Be Terminated||This lets the subtenant know what actions could cause the lease to be terminated, and what they need to do to lawfully terminate the lease.|
In most states, subtenants have the same rights that the original tenant does when it comes to rental agreements, so each state’s landlord-tenant laws apply to subtenants, as well.
And, most states view the tenant who subleases their rental unit as a landlord, and apply the landlord duties to the tenant subleasing their rental unit.
A few states provide additional protections or rules for subtenants. We explore the state-by-state additions in the chart below.
|State||Subtenant Additional Protections/Regulations|
|Arkansas||Subtenants can be charged a higher rent amount than what the tenant pays, and state law sets no limit on this amount.|
|California||Subtenants’ rent can’t be raised beyond the specific guidelines set out in state law.|
|Montana||The sublease term can’t extend beyond the master lease term.|
|New York||In “rent stabilized” units, there’s a limit to the amount of rent a subtenant can be assessed, and if the rent is too high, the subtenant could receive triple damages.|
|Oregon||1) Oregon subtenants do not have the same rights as a tenant.
2) The landlord may run a criminal background check (but not a credit check or income verification) on the proposed subtenant.
3) The tenant can terminate the subtenant’s occupancy at any time for any reason, but the landlord must have cause.
|Pennsylvania||Subtenants must follow all of the provisions of the master lease.|
|Virginia||Landlords can’t collect a security deposit from a subtenant if they have already collected a security deposit from the tenant for the same rental unit.|
If a state is not listed in the chart above, that means it makes no distinction between tenants and subtenants when it comes to rights and/or requirements under the residential landlord/tenant laws.
Local governments may offer additional protections to, or have additional requirements of, subtenants that are not addressed at the state level.
Subtenant Screening Process
Just because a tenant is subleasing part or all of their own rental unit, that doesn’t mean they should skip the screening process.
Tenants want to ensure they’re going to have a good subtenant just as much as the landlord does—and if a tenant chooses to sublease, it may be their responsibility to do all the screening!
Typically, someone subleasing a rental unit would want to ask for and follow up on the following information:
- Current and prior landlord contact information
- Employment history
- Income history
Financial red flags typically include things like bankruptcies, financial judgments, accounts sent to collections, foreclosures, and repossessions.
Tenants may also want to perform criminal background and/or credit checks on potential subtenants, according to the rules in each state.
Discriminatory Screening Practices
Tenants, just like landlords, aren’t allowed to discriminate against someone who might want to sublease their rental unit.
The following are examples of screening practices that would be considered discriminatory under the Federal Fair Housing Act:
- Creating different credit score requirements for different subtenants
- Using different income or employment requirements for different subtenants
- Using a different application form for different subtenants (if a rental application form is used)
The screening process must be the same for all subtenants, regardless of who they are.
Landlord Objections to Subtenants
Can a landlord object to the person a tenant wants to sublease to? Yes!
However, under the Federal Fair Housing Act, landlords are prohibited from discriminating against potential tenants (including subtenants).
Be aware that the Act does not apply to landlords who own three or fewer single-family rental homes, or to landlords who live in the rental property and rent the rest of the living areas within that property to four or fewer families.
For those landlords covered under the Act, they may not discriminate against someone for any of the following reasons:
- Familial status (having children under the age of 18, pregnancy, or being in the process of getting custody of a child under the age of 18, including adoption)
- National Origin
- Handicap* of the renter, or person who will be living with the renter, or any person associated with the renter
- Age (if the housing provider receives Federal financial assistance)
*Note: “handicap” as used in the Act means a “physical or mental impairment” that “substantially limits one or more” of that person’s “major life activities,” but does not include addiction to controlled substances.
Additional Protected Groups
Those with criminal histories. If the rental policy is to exclude anyone with an arrest record or conviction, regardless of how long ago the incident occurred, or what the arrest/conviction was for, that is discriminatory under the Federal Fair Housing Act.
Landlords/sublandlords cannot have a “blanket policy” when it comes to arrests or convictions, since minorities tend to be over-represented in these two categories, and such a policy could be used as a way to screen out minorities.
The only exception to this rule is people who have been convicted of drug trafficking and/or manufacturing. People with those convictions may be lawfully excluded from rental units.
Otherwise, each conviction or arrest should be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
The national law is silent on people who are required to be on the National Registry of Sex Offenders, and it is currently legal to deny rental housing to registered sex offenders.
State-specific protected classes. In addition, state and local governments may add their own protected classes to the federal list above.
The chart below lists additional protections for subtenants in each state (if there are any):
|State||ADDITIONAL Anti-Discrimination Protections|
|Alaska||Ancestry, marital status|
|California||Ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, source of income, genetic information, immigration/citizenship status|
|Colorado||Ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status|
|Connecticut||Age, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, source of income|
|Delaware||Age, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, source of income|
|Hawaii||Age, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, HIV/AIDS|
|Illinois||Age, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, military status|
|Indiana||Crime victims who have a civil or criminal protection order against someone else|
|Iowa||Sexual orientation, gender identity, HIV/AIDS|
|Maine||Ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity, source of income|
|Maryland||Sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status|
|Massachusetts||Age, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, military status, source of income, genetic information|
|Michigan||Age, ancestry, marital status|
|Minnesota||Ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, source of income|
|Montana||Age, marital status, ancestry|
|Nevada||Ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity|
|New Hampshire||Age, sexual orientation, marital status, HIV/AIDS|
|New Jersey||Ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, source of income, HIV/AIDS|
|New Mexico||Ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status|
|New York||Age, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, military status|
|North Dakota||Age, marital status, source of income|
|Ohio||Ancestry, military status|
|Oklahoma||Age, source of income|
|Oregon||Ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, source of income|
|Rhode Island||Age, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, military status, HIV/AIDS|
|Utah||Ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity, source of income|
|Vermont||Age, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, source of income|
|Washington||Ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, military status, source of income|
|Wisconsin||Age, ancestry, sexual orientation, marital status, source of income|
|Washington, D.C.||Age, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, source of income|
Several states also include pregnancy in their laws, but since this is already covered by the Federal Fair Housing Act under “familial status,” pregnancy is not listed as an additional protection in our chart.
While landlords in some states may not be able to deny their tenants the right to sublease, they may have the ability to decide which subtenants are allowed, as long as they’re not being discriminatory.
Approving or Denying the Sublease Agreement
Although not required in all states, it’s considered best practice to put all sublease approvals or denials in writing to the prospective subtenant, as this protects all parties involved should a dispute arise at a later date.
Remember, if a landlord chooses to deny a sublease agreement, it cannot be because of a person’s sex, race, color, national origin, religion, presence of a disability, or family status. And several states add other protections, such as sexual orientation.
When can landlords lawfully deny a sublease agreement/subtenant?
Many states do not address subleasing in their state-level laws and leave this up to counties, municipalities, or local landlords to address in a rental agreement.
In Alaska, the only acceptable reasons for denying a sublease are:
- Poor credit
- Insufficient financial history
- Too many people for the rental unit
- Subtenant won’t accept rental agreement terms
- Tenant’s pets violate pet policy
- Tenant’s commercial activity
- Bad report from former landlord
In addition, in Alaska, California, Colorado, Delaware, New Mexico, and New York, landlords cannot “unreasonably deny” or “unreasonably” withhold consent for sublease agreements. This may be true even if the lease prohibits subleasing.
Other State-Specific Approval/Denial Laws
In Alaska, any denials must be in writing, and Alaska landlords have 14 days to make a decision once they’ve received the subtenant’s written sublease offer.
If an Alaska landlord fails to make a decision during that time, the tenant is allowed to sublease the rental unit. Finally, if the sublease is denied for any reason other than the acceptable list above, the tenant can sublease the unit anyway or move out.
In New York, landlords have 30 days from receipt of the written sublease request to either approve or deny the sublease in writing, including any reasons for denial.
In Virginia, if the master lease requires the landlord to approve or deny the sublease, then the landlord has 10 days to make the decision and notify the parties.
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