How do I find a financially reliable long-term subletter for my rental apartment?
September 22, 2007 12:10 PM   Subscribe

Have you ever had someone else sublease (sublet) your rental apartment, long-term? (Long enough that the person was paying you month-to-month, rather than paying you all in advance?) If so, how did you find a reliable person? Or what happened when you found a bad person??

Legally I'm allowed to sublease my NYC apt. for up to 24 consecutive months, as long as A) I notify my landlord beforehand in writing and B) I don't charge more than 10% over than the actual rent I'm paying (10% over would still be a deal, especially furnished -- my rent is already below market for what it is, and it will only becoming more so [since my apt. is rent stabilized]).

So far I've done one sublease of this apt (for a few weeks) and that worked perfectly. It seems like the main difference between short-term and long-term would be the financial uncertainty of depending on someone else for rent. I would stay fully obligated to my landlord, whereas my subletter would be only obligated to me by their own sense of responsibility and by whatever rights are afforded to me by our sublease/contract with each other. Assuming I wouldn't have the right to easily evict someone for non-payment (meaning they don't really have any meaningful consequences if they don't pay me!), it's really a big risk. But in my particular case it could well be worth a big risk. I've lived in NYC now for a long time, in all kinds of places, so I have a good sense of what works for me and I really see my current place as worth maintaining rather than letting go, if I need to be elsewhere temporarily.

So have you done this, or something like it? Did you have any financial or other disasters? How did you pick the person, and how did you investigate their finances? Did you only interview the people who had the most long-term jobs and/or the top credit scores? (Neither of which, ironically, characterizes me.... but I definitely am NOT interested in just relying on intuition and how each applicant "feels" because I have encountered bad people who are expert at giving good impressions.)
posted by lorimer to Work & Money (8 answers total)
about 10 years ago, my wife found someone in the newspaper classified who was looking to sublet. I'm sure she was biased by the fact that person was a young single mother, as opposed to a hardened ex-con or something.

We got lucky; she was rarely ever home as she was working a lot of hours, she never had any visitors, and she always paid in cash on time.

I doubt my wife checked her credit; she may have called to verify employment however.

It's easier than you think to evict your new roommate; ask the landlord to change the locks (we never had to do this, however; we ended up deciding to move so she had to as well).

No matter what, you are taking a risk. You just need to decide if it's worth it.
posted by Brocktoon at 12:39 PM on September 22, 2007

I did it in NYC, too, under similar circumstances. It's hard to protect yourself-- the best-laid plans and all that. I found my tenant through word-of-mouth. I told my super I was looking for someone and that I'd tip him if he found me a viable tenant.

I then asked for three months of paystubs, and five references, and I checked them all. I called the human resources department of the company he worked for to verify his length of employment and income. I did not check his credit. I tried to pick someone with solid employment history and connections to the building and the community. His girlfriend lived next door, so he had real reasons for wanting to be in my specific building.

I also paid attention to my gut. And it all worked out fine. He rented from me for the full 24 months allowed (this was a co-op), and all's well that ends well.
posted by astruc at 12:44 PM on September 22, 2007

I have both brought a sublessor into my apartment for 6+ months, and sublet others' apartments for several months (paying monthly rather than upfront). Here are some hallmarks of the process that seemed to work for me:

1. My sublessor was referred by a friend; he was known fairly well. This made me more confident that (a) he was not a total psycho - important as I am female and was a little concerned about bringing in a male, and (b) that he would be likely to keep his obligations.

2. I got a 1-month deposit from my sublessor, and had him agree that if he did not pay rent by the 5th of any month, I would take the deposit and he would be promptly asked to leave. I didn't get this in writing, but I should have (I was young, stupid and desperate!).

3. The ladies I leased from later got references from my work, copies of paystubs, and other financial information like any other landlord would, to make sure I was reasonably likely to meet my obligations.

4. In addition, they required a 2-month deposit - i.e. to move in I paid first month, last month and my share of a security deposit. This gave them additional security in case I failed to pay rent AND busted up the apartment.

5. However, in all of these situations I was sharing with the other tenants, in large apartments. We were around each other daily to monitor the situation. So I realize that's a little different.
posted by bunnycup at 12:50 PM on September 22, 2007

I was on the other end of the situation - I had to find a sublet back home in the States while I was overseas. I used Craigslist. I think one point in my favor was that my Dad went to meet with the current renter.

Also, I think she got lucky, because she ended up not being able to come back after the sublet period was over (like she had expected to) and my husband and I worked like crazy cleaning and helping her friend move her stuff out of the apartment.

I realize that you don't want to go on your gut feeling, but a lot of the financial investigation you're suggesting could be easily faked as well. If you're not comfortable, suggest an initial short term lease, with an option to renew. Have someone in NYC who's willing to act as your representative.
posted by Liosliath at 1:25 PM on September 22, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the great advice so far -- as I could have said more clearly, I'm not seeking a roommate but a replacement for myself (a sole tenant for my apt.) while I need to be elsewhere temporarily. So the rent issue is critical because I am responsible for the entire rent while not getting any of the benefit of it (not living in the apt.).
posted by lorimer at 1:34 PM on September 22, 2007

Response by poster: (By the way for anybody who reads Brocktoon's comment, it is 100% not allowed to evict a tenant by changing the locks -- both in nyc and in many other areas.)
posted by lorimer at 1:39 PM on September 22, 2007

I'm certain this is really less risky than you're assuming -- lots people I know (in fact probably most people I know) share apartments without being named on a lease and I've known no one personally who's been screwed over. Most people are basically honest. Do a little research on your rights and the potential tenant, and spend some time talking to them personally, and it's most likely you'll be fine. Don't assume the worst about people or you'll be sure to find it.
posted by loiseau at 7:41 PM on September 22, 2007

Best answer: I have sublet my NYC apartment many times for up to eight months, usually using Craigslist. I have never been "screwed over," but some subletters are better than others. Here's my best advice:

1. Draw up a contract. On it, list all the rules that you want your subletter to follow, and all the rules you will follow. Include the dates, the rent, how it will be paid, on what date.

2. If possible, meet the person in person. Ask for references, resume and pay stubs.

3. Charge first month's rent and security, payable before the person moves in. Put a clause in your contract about when the security will be paid back (perhaps you'll take utilities out of the deposit and won't give back the difference until all utility bills have been received for the time of the stay). If you make the security high enough, that is a huge incentive for people to be "good"--they want that money back.

4. Require the tenant to leave the place exactly as they found it, cleanliness-wise, with the stipulation that you will use the security to hire a maid if this is not taken care of.

5. Make the dates of the sublet firm. The only problem I have ever had was with a guy who tried to extend the dates and get a lower rent.

I have never had a financial disaster with Craigslist. Oh, another thing I did was give a friend keys to my apartment and put in the contract that she would be allowed to enter, after setting up a time with the sublettor, in case I needed anything from the apartment. This was so I felt confident that I could have someone check up on the place if I was feeling nervous. Which I never was.

Also, pack up anything you don't want broken/stolen, if possible. I used to pack up all my CDs, favorite dishes, etc.
posted by annabellee at 11:13 AM on September 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

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