Advice for subletting a room - when you have a flatmate?
July 23, 2015 10:33 PM   Subscribe

My roommate and I signed a 16th month lease back in January. Great place in SF. But I just made a positive life decision which means I need to move out. Have you ever sublet a room? What advice do you have? More details inside...

It's a 2br/2ba that's great for roommates. It's in SF, so it is pretty pricey, but we got a great deal because we signed a 16th month lease.

What are the best practices for subletting?

1. Do I offer a monthly discount to the new person? How much should I offer?

2. How do I go about vetting prospective people? I don't want to burden my roommate with this (we're friends... well... for now... until he finds out...), but I also don't want to screw him over.

3. Have you ever done something like this? What did you do?

posted by Mushroom12345 to Home & Garden (16 answers total)
1. No. In this rental climate, you sublet for the full amount you are paying in rent.

Are you planning to come back at some point, or looking to keep that option open? That might change how you should proceed.
posted by needs more cowbell at 10:55 PM on July 23, 2015

No monthly discount.

Typically the way this goes is that you talk to your roommate about it, and together you craft a craigslist ad (with good photos -- FYI). Look at other Craigslist ads for inspiration if you need it.

After you get a trillion replies, weed through them to find the people who aren't the psychopaths. Set up roommate interviews/tours of the apartment with them. Try to schedule 15 minutes per each person and do it across two evenings total -- you don't want to burden your roommate with this, but he has to be there to make sure that he doesn't live with someone weird.

Things to watch out for: Does your lease have anything written in it that says you have to clear a sublet with your landlord? Ours did, and so even after we chose a person he had to go through some red tape background check paperwork with the landlord.
posted by aaanastasia at 11:27 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

You should set the criteria for financial trustworthiness you want to have met, but otherwise you should offer your roommate control of the selection process if he wants it. I once had a roommate from Hell foisted on me in a similar situation (The new subletting roommate accused me of killing her parakeets with voodoo. You can't make this sh*t up.) and I still hate the original roommate.
posted by frumiousb at 11:55 PM on July 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Anything in your lease about subletting? The room I'm in right now is sublette, until the lease expires in a few days (and I've signed a new lease!). The landlord had to know, and the person I'm subletting from had to pay him a fee.

So there's some more practical things you may need to address.

Monthly discount? Ohgoshnofullpricedude!
posted by alex_skazat at 12:58 AM on July 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've been the roommate who stayed behind when my roommate sublet the space. We both checked the potential new subletters out, and we both had to agree on the sublessee.

In my case, my roommate did most of the legwork finding people because it was a short-term sublet (only a few weeks) and it was a sudden thing; but if I'd found someone that would have been fine too. So since you're the one who's taking off, offer to take on the bulk of the organizational work in drumming up people - the post-on-Craiglist-schedule when-to-meet-people organizing stuff.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:18 AM on July 24, 2015

I have done this, I've also been the roommate in this situation several times.

Monthly discount: generally not, unless it's over a non-peak period (e.g. university break in a student area.)

Finding and vetting potential people: You might do the bulk of the 'making the place look nice', advertising and legwork in finding people. Roommate might want to be consulted about the ad or co-write it (to target the kind of person they want.)

Roommate(s) who will be living with the person get to pick the person to move in. As such, they need to be present when people visit and see the house. Try and be accommodating with schedules, etc.

Caveat: assuming generally sensible roommate who doesn't say no to everyone or refuse to schedule house visits at a convenient time, etc. Every time I've done this it was with cooperative housemates who wanted to live with decent people :)

Legal stuff: may need to also clear sublet with landlord depending on lease and legal requirements wherever you live. Any tenant transfer fees etc. are yours to cover.
posted by Ashlyth at 6:47 AM on July 24, 2015

this is very common in NYC and I imagine in SF too. Really, the main thing is to make sure you are giving your roommate at least 30 days notice. If you can do that and be as of little or as much assistance in finding someone new as your roommate wants, most reasonable people won't hold this against you.
posted by cakelite at 6:59 AM on July 24, 2015

Think about your security deposit. Does the subletter pay you whatever you put down as deposit, so they get it back from the landlord at end of lease?

When my renters sublet I want the new person's details, and both the original renter and the new person sign a lease reassignment. The reassignment says that if the new person flakes then the original lessee is still responsible for rent.
posted by anadem at 7:43 AM on July 24, 2015

I would say that this is super common anywhere where people rent shared accommodation.

If you want to be able to return to your room, then you'll most likely need to clear subletting with your landlord/estate agent. If you don't want your room anymore, then this isn't subletting - you're wanting to do a transfer of lease.

First you tell your housemate that you are going to move out in [at least 30 days] and see if he has anyone in mind for the room.

Then you write ads for Facebook/Craigslist/wherever you want to advertise, preferably with your housemate involved in the vetting process because he's going to be living with the person. He might be happy to do all the reading of emails, contacting people, and interviewing by himself. If he's less proactive and not very fussy about who he lives with, he might want you to do more of the organising interviews etc. and then he'll just show up to make sure he doesn't hate the person.

As long as you give your housemate enough notice and do as much as he wants you to do to try to find a replacement, there's no rational reason why he would hate you.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 7:45 AM on July 24, 2015

I've been your roommate several times over the past year. I live in a 4BR flat in Chicago, with a rotating crop of 20-somethings who move on as life takes them wherever. It happens.

When someone lets the rest of us know they're leaving, that person places the ad on craigslist or wherever and does the bulk sifting through the many responses, passing the non-red-flags on to the rest of us. (Things that help solicit good responses: be clear about what the apartment offers, have good pics that actually show the spaces, tell them a little bit about your roommate, ask them to send you a little bit about themselves, possibly with a link to their facebook or LinkedIn profiles.) Then we (the ones staying behind) contact the people who meet whatever criteria we decide are important and set up a time to meet. When they come over, we do the tour of the apartment and include 15 minutes of sitting down getting-to-know-each-other time. If there's any weirdness, discomfort, or crazy, it usually comes through pretty quickly. The people staying decide who gets the room.

Once we pick someone, the departing roommate takes care of meeting with the landlord to sign the lease and sort out deposits. You should also take care of any subletting fees.

Aside from the logistical parts, it helps just to talk really honestly with your roommate and to give him a day to think it through. Most people will rationally understand, but some need a little bit of time to adjust to the idea of their living situation changing.
posted by smittosmith at 7:58 AM on July 24, 2015

You should tell your roommate now. You can offer to do all the work, but roomie should have the opportunity to be involved in vetting people, since he's going to be living with one of them.
posted by J. Wilson at 8:22 AM on July 24, 2015

In San Francisco, the rents have definitely gone up since January. Even roommate openings are scarce. You'll be able to get the full amount -- no discount.

Tell your roommate right away. Say that you want to handle things in a way that's fair. Don't try to talk about details right then, because roommate hasn't had a chance to think about it, and worry will probably make it hard for them to think everything through. If they do start in on specifics, you still don't have to agree on anything. Just listen to what they say, and then come back to it the next day.

Don't make assumptions about what your roommate wants or what he's be feeling. Don't take it upon yourself to make things easier for him without his input. Putting your own ads on line sounds like a helpful thing, but if he wants to handle it himself, he won't welcome it.
posted by wryly at 10:03 AM on July 24, 2015

Given the market, you could probably soften the blow on your roommate by raising rent a bit (maybe $50/month or so) and passing the savings on to your roomie for the remainder of the lease. Depends on how your lease is written -- everywhere I lived in the Bay Area, there was an overall amount of rent, and the roommates could split it up however they decided. This usually meant people who had been there longest paid less.

Besides that, yes, definitely involve your roomate to the extent he wants and let him take the lead on how the hunt for a replacement will go. Don't be like my awful ex-roomate who, in your situation, decided she wanted to find a subletter while everyone was out of town, found a truly awful woman, and then pressured everyone to be okay with it because otherwise she'd be out hundreds of dollars of rent. Ugh. I don't think you'll have any trouble finding a subletter given the state of things in San Francisco right now, but in any case you should afford your roommate the right to be a little picky if he wants to -- after all, he's sharing his home with this person, and it royally SUCKS to be forced into a living situation with someone who's a bad fit.
posted by rainbowbrite at 10:28 AM on July 24, 2015

I did this last year. I just charged the person the same amount that I had been paying. I don't know why you would charge either less or more, since they're getting the exact same thing you had.

In terms of vetting the person with my roommate, I brought several candidates over to the place to meet her and discuss the situation, all the three of us. This gave my roommate the opportunity to speak up that she wasn't comfortable living with a male roommate and gave her the chance to see a few people and have a say in who she's living with. Tell your roommate firmly that you have no choice but to sublet, but also that you want to find a subletter that they are comfortable living with.

Eventually I found a really good subletter who was really responsible and paid everything on time. I made her give me postdated cheques in advance. The situation seemed to work out perfectly.
posted by winterportage at 10:41 AM on July 24, 2015

Response by poster: Just to clarify - this is a one way trip. Extremely unlikely that I would return.
posted by Mushroom12345 at 11:10 AM on July 24, 2015

What you're doing, if you don't want to return, is more "replacing a roommate" (this is a phrase I have seen used in legal advice online) than "subletting." You (or really, your roommate) has more rights in terms of "replacing a roommate" than in "subletting."

See also:
posted by needs more cowbell at 4:47 PM on July 25, 2015

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