Many people in Southern California are interested in subletting their apartment, especially during the summer months when they travel or perhaps return to another home. Likewise, many out-of-towners seek out short-term sublets in our region as they seek job opportunities, look for longer-term rentals or homes, or just enjoy visiting the area. And with platforms like Airbnb.com, subletting has become easier than ever for both sublessors and sublessees alike.
But, as a tenant, you will want to make sure that you're within your rights in subletting in order to avoid consequences. Which raises the question, “Should I tell my landlord that I'm subletting?”
Look to Your Lease and Local Laws
Landlord-tenant law is usually based on state and city laws, so it is important to make sure you are following guidelines that actually apply to the jurisdiction in which you live. What might have been legal for your friend living in Chicago or what you read in an article about a tenant in New York may not be legal for a tenant living in Los Angeles, Pasadena, or Santa Monica.
It's also crucial to look at your lease itself to determine what it says about subleasing. Most landlords these days use either a lease that a real estate lawyer has developed for them or a form lease that they've gotten from a landlord's association or online source. These leases generally are going to include a provision about subletting. Most leases will probably say that subleasing is only allowed where there is notice to the landlord and the landlord approves. In some other cases, the lease might prohibit subleases altogether.
It's rare but not impossible that you would have a lease that does not discuss your rights with regard to subletting. If you violate the lease by subletting without providing notice, you may be subject to penalties including the possibility of eviction.
California law does allow landlords to withhold consent to a sublease and thus prevent the tenant from subletting the apartment, although courts have said that a landlord may not unreasonably withhold that consent. Thus, if a landlord objects to you subletting your apartment and has a reasonable grounds for doing so – for example, if the sublessee presents a danger to other tenants or the building – then the landlord may legally prevent you from subletting.
Subletting vs. Assigning Your Lease
When you sublease to another tenant, it is still your responsibility and your responsibility alone to pay your rent, so you should have the sublessee pay you, and you should pay your regular rent.
If you want someone to take over your lease entirely, that is called an assignment and is different from a sublease agreement. In an assignment, a new tenant takes over all of your rights and responsibilities under the lease for the remainder of the lease. The new tenant will pay the landlord directly. But – and this is a huge point to remember – unless your landlord grants you what is called a “novation” (a legally operative document releasing you from your responsibilities under the lease), then you will still be liable to the landlord for any unpaid rent that the new tenant fails to pay to the landlord.
For answers to any of your Landlord/Tenant law questions in California, contact the attorneys at the Access Lawyers Group for more information.