What size security deposit should I require for a 1-month sublet?
June 27, 2013 6:09 PM   Subscribe

I'm subletting my room in a Capitol Hill, Washington DC rowhouse for 1 month. I pay $1250 for rent, and I'm thinking about charging $1050 in rent for a subletter to make sure I get someone for July. My security deposit with the landlord is about $1000. The landlord knows I'm subletting it and is totally OK with it, as long as I'm responsible for any potential damage. So would it be unreasonable to require a $1000 security deposit for a 1-month sublet? How about $750? $500?

I'm planning on signing an agreement with the subletter about them getting the deposit back the day they move out unless there is significant damage.
posted by catquas to Work & Money (15 answers total)
Check the residential tenants' act in your jurisdiction - I know that in mine you can't legally charge more than one month's rent. If damages exceed that you have to go to court.
posted by lizbunny at 6:29 PM on June 27, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks but I'm definitely going to charge less than 1 month's rent. I'm just not sure how much less...
posted by catquas at 6:42 PM on June 27, 2013

I would charge the same $1,000 you have paid your landlord as your own security deposit.
posted by elizardbits at 6:44 PM on June 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

A lot of potential subletters may be students. Having to come up with $2050 upon move-in might be a little steep, so you'll be eliminating some potential candidates. Whether a smaller pool of applicants is a good thing or not depends on what you're looking for in a subletter, I guess.
posted by juliplease at 6:45 PM on June 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

If I were a subletter, I would never hand over double the rent to someone I didn't know, for such an informal arrangement as a one month sublet- "signed agreement" or not. If I were in your position, I'd probably just charge more than a month's rent for the sublet and accept the risk of possible damage.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:05 PM on June 27, 2013 [5 favorites]

I sublet my Capitol Hill, DC, studio apartment for three months last summer. I got a deposit equal to half a month's rent. That's also what I paid as a deposit on the bedroom I sublet in an apartment in another city at the same time. For a month, I'd say you have to go lower than that. I might follow showbiz liz's advice and just absorb the risk. But at most, I'd say $250.
posted by decathecting at 7:22 PM on June 27, 2013

I think it depends on who you're trying to attract, and how desperate you are.

If your place is nice enough and you're realistically looking for a high-income professional, you can charge one month's rent as a security deposit. If you're scrambling to find a subletter and your place is more student-y, then I'd go with $500. Or, as showbiz_liz says, charge a higher rent and gamble.

The other option is some sort of "cleaning deposit" in the $200-300 range that you don't refund. Again, though, that's assuming you have a really nice place that's more "vacation rental" than "student dorm room." Given that you're talking about subletting a room rather than an apartment, though, it doesn't sound like you're in that kind of place.
posted by jaguar at 7:40 PM on June 27, 2013

Is this a room in the house in which the landlord lives, or is this a room in a rowhouse that has other renters (roommates) also renting? How much damage could this person do in the course of normal living? If the person turns out to be a bad person doing malicious damage then no amount of security deposit will really help.

I would assume that my own security deposit will be partially returned because that is what landlords usually do and as such I would go with a small number say $300. You don't want the number so low, doing damage could actually be construed as the same expense as a night of entertainment, but not so high that it discourages tenants from even applying.

But I think jaguar hit it on the head with the first sentence. I think it depends on who you're trying to attract, and how desperate you are
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:26 PM on June 27, 2013

Weeklong vacation rentals often have a deposit equal to the rent. If you don't have significant furnishings, somewhat less is reasonable.
posted by wnissen at 9:34 PM on June 27, 2013

I think the way to think about this is from the viewpoint of "What would happen if the sublet tenant trashes the place?" You would be responsible, potentially for your entire security deposit.

So I think you have ask yourself if you want to potentially be on the hook for $1000-$X, where X is what you intend to hold as the sublet deposit.
posted by OHSnap at 11:57 PM on June 27, 2013

Not that i'm an expert or anything, but i personally think it would be more marketable as higher rent with no deposit than a lower rent + deposit.

No one wants to pay much if any of a deposit on this type of thing, it's basically a slight step above an AirBNB/hotel room rental if it's one month. People pay a premium for not being forced in to a longer commitment for sure, but would likely balk at the same type of deposit you'd pay on a 6 month or 1 year lease.
posted by emptythought at 1:15 AM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also, I'm pretty sure that if the tenant actually causes damage in excess of the security deposit (or lack thereof), you can always take them to small claims court and/or call the police. A small security deposit doesn't mean that if your subtenant sets fire to the room, you're SOL. The deposit is designed to make recovery easier for you and to keep the case out of court, but it doesn't limit your recovery for damages in excess of normal wear-and-tear. It just makes that recovery more complicated.
posted by decathecting at 9:28 AM on June 28, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for all the responses! It is a room in a rowhouse that has other renters (housemates) renting. The applicants I've gotten a sustained response from haven't been students or interns, but I'm not sure who I'm going to end up getting to commit. It's sounding like $500 might be a good compromise between different people's views. If people balk at that, I could negotiate. I like the idea of at least some security deposit as opposed to higher rent, because just in case I end up with someone who needs an incentive to not damage things, that incentive is there. I can afford to eat $1000 in damages, but that would not be ideal.
posted by catquas at 11:07 AM on June 28, 2013

I am currently subletting in San Francisco for two months, and I definitely put up a whole month in security deposit to the owner of the house. She drew up an informal half page lease that we both signed that basically said subletting 2 months, responsible for damages, and that I had already put up a month as a security deposit. Certainly such an arrangement won't appeal to everyone, but if someone is moving to DC and needs a transitional space or is coming for an internship, etc., they'd likely be willing to pay a deposit. Overall it's cheaper than a hotel/Airbnb! If you have trouble finding a tenant, you can always drop the requirement. However, I feel like the situation is better safe than sorry. When I was looking at other places, the lowest I saw was someone who only required $500. However, everyone in SF wanted a security deposit of some kind, even for only a month sublet. So you're in good company for wanting one!
posted by amileighs at 11:16 AM on June 28, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, I went with $400 and that went over fine.
posted by catquas at 2:06 PM on June 29, 2013

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