Sublettee responsibilitee?
August 12, 2007 10:45 PM   Subscribe

I was supposed to stay a year, but am moving out within the first month. I gave my roommate/sublettor three weeks' notice that I was moving out. Do I have to find a roommate for him?

I'm not leasing, but subletting the room. The contact (signed by both parties) stated that it was a month-to-month contract, and doesn't state anything concerning any amount of notice for moving out. I paid the first and last month's rent upfront, and would like to get the last month's back in a civil manner.

My roommate is out of town until the 20th. I emailed my roommate telling him that I was leaving, right after the first week (the 8th). The roommate responded by saying 'let's talk later'. Today, I got a very curt one-line email asking me if I could "please work on finding a replacement?"

Is this necessary? As a subletter, what rights do I have? (I'm in NYC.) I'm of the opinion that since there was no minimum length of contract and since it was month-to-month, and since I gave more than enough notice, I shouldn't be the person responsible for looking for a replacement. At the same time, I want to know if this is the kosher 'thing to do'. I don't want to be evil, but I don't have time to look for someone either. At the same time, I want to get my last month's rent back. What should I do?
posted by suedehead to Law & Government (15 answers total)
Well, normally, you have to give a month's notice. And if you're on month to month, then that notice would mean for the end of the next month. See "month-to-month" here. So giving notice on August 8th would mean you have indicated that you will be out by the end of September. You will owe for September, even if you leave at the end of August. IANAL.
posted by acoutu at 10:59 PM on August 12, 2007

Generally speaking, email isn't the right way to go about this, you should provide written notice either via mail or in person. You're probably going to have to pay for September anyway.

Asking around for another roommate isn't your responsibility, but you can always make an effort to not further sour what will probably be an unpleasant situation.
posted by iamabot at 11:33 PM on August 12, 2007

It's worth spending the two hours or so it would take to put up some notices at local colleges, shopping centres, etc. Ask some friends to help you, email them PDF copies of the notice and ask them to print some out and put them up. It can be very little effort to find someone to replace you, especially if your criteria are--since you're moving out--pretty easy-going. (Don't be a jerk about it though. :) Pick someone who seems to have a reasonable source of income and doesn't smell, or look like a junkie.) Try to get the lessor's OK to give their contact number rather than yours; they're the one who's going to have to live with the replacement, after all.

If the lessor objects to all potential replacement tenants, and it comes down to a small-claims dispute, the fact that you went to some effort to find someone suitable to replace you will count in your favor.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 11:40 PM on August 12, 2007

I know your question is mostly about the law, which I can't really help you with, but you should really consider the dickishness implications of your decision: There are four outcomes:

1) You pay for September
2) Your roommate pays for your room for September
3) You find a replacement
4) Your roommate finds a replacement either remotely or starting on the 20th.

You don't like #1, and forcing your roommate to do #2 or #4 is a shitty thing to do. So my advice is: get on Craigslist and post a listing, or embrace #1.
posted by aubilenon at 11:41 PM on August 12, 2007

Having been on the otherside of the equation, please keep in mind that the person from whom you're subletting is obviously depending on your rent to pay the total rent, otherwise, why would he/she rent out a second room? If you just up and leave when the general consensus was that you were going to stay a full year, it's a little bit rude.

If you're going to be living in the apartment for any time in September, you're at least responsible for a prorated amount of rent.

To figure out how much you would owe exactly:
(Full Rent/30) x days in month.

($600/30) = $20/day x 8 days = $160 for September.

This is how we calculated rent when I was a leasing agent for an apartment complex. From that perspective, you'd owe for at least 8 days.Also,

Also, there's no reason that you couldn't offer to find a new roommate in exchange for returning your last month's rent. It would solve your problem and his/hers. And it's a less assholey thing to do.

If you're not going to find a roommate, then just pay last month's rent and deal with it. You decided to commit to that person's lease and he or she is counting on you being there. Dropping out, with adequate notice or not, is still a horrible thing to do. Your current roommate may not be able to pay rent by themselves, or they may be faced with terminating the lease, which is terribly expensive in most cases.
posted by santojulieta at 2:44 AM on August 13, 2007

You need to find another subletter. Not doing this is unthinkably inconsiderate.
posted by bluenausea at 3:16 AM on August 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

You may not be legally obligated to make a concerted effort to find another subletter. But you are without question an asshole if you don't.

And since when is 3-months notice "more than enough" in a month-to-month contract? A month would be the minimum. 6-8 weeks would qualify as "more than enough".

Basically you are costing the guy at least a month's rent. How's he going to find a replacement in less than a month? Best he'll do is a replacement for the next month.

posted by lastobelus at 3:49 AM on August 13, 2007

It sounds to me like you're moving out at the end of this month. If so, you're essentially giving the guy 10 days' notice to find a new roommate. Yes, that's shitty, and you know it. I think you just want someone to tell you "no, go forth and be happy; you have no responsibility here," but it's not the case. Legally, I guess you don't have to do anything, but to cut and run on the guy like this, and then ask for some money back? That's pretty assholey. If I were this guy, no way would I give you any money back. If you're not going to help him start looking for someone new, at least let it go about the money. Your roommate will probably need it to pay for September while he looks for someone new.
posted by boomchicka at 4:30 AM on August 13, 2007

I've been on the other side of this equation, and I don't agree with the people who are preaching about how big of a jerk you'll be if you don't find another person to sublet.

The other roommates have exactly as much time as you do to find a new roommate, and this is something they should've contemplated when they signed a month-to-month instead of a full year lease.

There's a reason that people sign month-to-month agreements, and this is basically it.

Yes, it does suck for that person, but think about it this way: if they had required a full year, or a three month guarantee, or something like that... would you have agreed to it, or would you have found another place? (If you'd have agreed, they did a poor job of bargaining)

If your roommates had a dire need to have a tenant every single month, they should not have signed a month-to-month agreement without some fairly strict notice policies.

I do agree with one poster above, though: unless it's stated somewhere in the contract, one month notice, minimum. Three weeks is not long enough.

When it's all said and done, though, people are babies, and your roommate sounds like he will probably be pissy about it if you don't at least make an effort to find him a new roommate. Meet him in the middle. You put up the signs, he fields the requests. There's no reason you should be picking who's going to follow you.
posted by toomuchpete at 4:43 AM on August 13, 2007

I think you lost your chances of getting the last month's rent back when you:

1. Violated your contract by giving three weeks' notice instead of a month

2. Violated your verbal agreement by staying a month instead of a year

Your only hope is to find another roommate. Get thee to Craigslist!
posted by christinetheslp at 5:29 AM on August 13, 2007

Is this necessary?

Yeah, if you want any chance at all of getting your last month's rent back. In fact, situations like this are exactly why folks like your roommate ask for the last month's rent in advance. It can be a real pain to find a roommate on short notice, and three weeks' notice is short, especially after he may have just finished telling other good candidates the place was taken.

If I were in your roommate's shoes, and you did nothing to help find a replacement, I'd be hard pressed to think of a reason to not use your final payment to give me some breathing room to find someone. Of course, if I were in your roommate's shoes, I'd have written at least a month's notice into the contract to begin with.
posted by mediareport at 6:19 AM on August 13, 2007

You mention you're in NYC -- throw up an ad on Craigslist and see what you get. About 5 minutes of effort, and you'll almost definitely get at least a few interested responses.
posted by rachelv at 7:57 AM on August 13, 2007

I second RachelV. There's no need to print up flyers or post on physical bulletin boards, as the vacancy rate in Manhattan is far below 1% and, according to New York magazine, possibly the most competitive the NYC rental market has ever been. One ad on Craiglist, which will take you max 20 minutes if you have to take pictures (which you don't), should yield plenty of responses if your rent is even remotely decent (say under 2k).

I will say to all those who are saying the OP is a big asshole that renting in NYC is a huge crapshoot and the amount of crazy roommate situations are legion. People who refuse to let you use the kitchen, charge you double their rent, etc. If the OP is in a similar situation I don't blame them for skedaddling. But I agree you can't expect to get the deposit back without at least a month's notice
posted by alicetiara at 4:30 PM on August 13, 2007

I think the OP's roommate might have asked if they were going to find a roommate, as a way of allowing the OP to leave at the end of August instead of the end of September. The roommate may be willing to let the OP leave without penalty if a suitable subletter is found.
posted by acoutu at 9:07 PM on August 13, 2007

Response by poster: Follow-up: I took everyone's advice and posted ads on Craigslist, showed the apartment around on one weekend, found multiple people willing to take the place. I forwarded them over to him so he could make the final decision (as he requested). Things are now (relatively) amiable.

Thank you AskMe! Thank you everybody!
posted by suedehead at 10:12 AM on August 22, 2007

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