Rental prices in New York City are steep, to put things lightly, and subletting is practically a way of life. Few people can afford to live in an NYC apartment comfortably on just one salary and unmarried professionals often partner up through the art of subletting.
Subletting, for those unfamiliar with the term, is when one person is the primary renter who then turns around and rents a portion of their home to someone else. The subletter signs a different lease, paying the primary renter who then pays the entire rent. It's an interesting way to take on a roommate and keep the books on-the-level when it comes to roommate rent payment. It's also a great approach to the roommate revolving door while still keeping 100% control of your rented home.
But subletting in NYC is a little more complicated than other places because rental laws are so precise and landlords tend to have an exact way they like things to be done. So if you're thinking about renting to sublet or subletting an NYC home you've already leased, this guide has been written just for you. Here's how to sublet your apartment in New York City:
Cover Your Bases: Can You Sublet?
The first question is whether or not you're allowed to sublet your apartment. There are a few New York laws that limit the subletting ability of tenants in certain homes and circumstances. And if the law isn't' a limitation, your lease or landlord might be. Some buildings, landlords, and management companies do not allow subletting, but many do. So it never hurts to ask. Let's do the quick checks:
Legal to Sublet
Most apartments are legal to sublet in NYC, provided the leases are for longer than 30 days (to fight vacation rentals). Those who are not legally allowed to sublet include:
- Rent controlled apartments
- Section 8 housing
- Public housing and subsidized housing
Lease-Authorized to Sublet
From here, check your rental lease. Your landlord or management company might openly state that subletting is against the rules, or that you must go through an application process to be permitted to sublet. Whatever the lease says is legally binding, so this is the final word on whether or not you can sublet.
If the lease doesn't say, assume that you should check with your landlord or building manager before going ahead with the subletting plan.
Terms of Subletting
Discover if there are any terms required for your subletting, like using a specific subletting lease or sharing a copy of the lease with your landlord. Follow these terms to the letter if provided. Get written permission to sublet and then, from there, keep your landlord in the loop when you find someone and a move-in date is set.
Prepare for a Subletter
Once you've been approved to sublet, the next step is to prepare to become a landlord. You'll want to have your legal ducks in a row, your paperwork ready for signing, and the room ready to be welcoming for whoever you select to become your new rent-paying roommate.
Choose / Customize a Subletting Lease Contract
The first step is to design your subletting lease. Leases are legally binding and you should absolutely have your subletter sign one. The lease should define how much their rent will be, when the rent is to be paid, whether or not utilities are covered or split, and any other details you think are important.
Start with a boilerplate template of a subletting lease and look into clauses you may want to add. Many people find parking rules, pet clauses, and even chore rotas to be beneficial when included in a subletting lease.
Design a Roommate Application Form
Next, design an application form that your potential new subletters will fill out. When you start to get 'bites', you'll want a standardized way to compare one applicant to another. An application form can help you get all the important information for background checks and basic roommate quality assessment and can be shared through any channel you advertise with.
Prepare the Space You're Subletting
Now it's time to prepare the actual apartment. No doubt, you have a bedroom set aside for the purpose and your subletter might even get their own bathroom depending on the design of your apartment. Take some real time to prepare the space, furnished or unfurnished, to be welcoming to your subletter. Clean it from floor to ceiling and use a rented steam cleaner on any carpets. If you plan to sublet a furnished space, make the bed and decorate for the kind of tenant you want to find. Make it beautiful, because you're about to take photos.
Create a Template Subletting Advert
Next, prepare your advertising materials. To get a good subletter, you'll want to spread the word far and wide so you have the best chance of reaching awesome potential applicants. You'll advertise in a bunch of different places, but there are two elements that will be the same every time: photos and description. So you should get these assets together early and copy-paste them everywhere you advertise.
Take Stunning Photos
Photos are the single most important part of creating an appealing subletting advert. Big spacious photos of the room, the furnishings, the bathroom, and the public spaces you'll share with your tenant. Make sure your photos are clear and well-lit with the room in it's best possible condition.
A good policy is to label each one of your photos so that applicants can know exactly what they're looking at. Use labels like "Bedroom, closet, bathroom, shared living room, shared kitchen, apartment pool, apartment weight room" and so on. Definitely don't forget the building amenities, which you'll be sharing
Write a Warm & Detailed Description
Take some time to write a really nice description of the room and living situation. Be warm and welcoming about bringing in a new person, but also be really honest about what you're looking for in a roommate. Mention if you're a day or night person, if you like noise or quiet, and any building policies you'll need to pass on. This will help your applicants know if they've found the perfect room/roommate/landlord combination in your subletting opportunity.
Advertise Your Opening
Now it's time to take those materials and advertise your room for let. It's best to market through multiple channels so that your ideal roommate can find you, no matter where they are on the internet. Plaster your photos everywhere and be sure to use each platform to it's maximum intended purpose for advertising your room.
Check-In with Friends & Family
The first people you should check with are friends and family. Get the word out to any siblings, cousins, or close friends that you've got a room available. These are people you already know and (probably) trust to be good roommates. Best friends can make great roommates, but not always. Don't rent to personal contacts unless you know they'll be good tenants.
Pin It On Your Social Media
Post your opening on social media, but don't stop there. Be sure to pin your post to the top of your Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram pages so that everyone who looks at your stuff will see that you've got a cozy little room for rent in the Big Apple. You might even get bites from people who want to move to NYC and finally see an opportunity.
Create a Craigslist Opening
Craigslist is where people have been meeting and finding roommates long before the sharing economy. Of course, you'll want to be careful to avoid the roommate horror stories that tend to come along with Craigslist connections, but we'll help you take care of that in the next step.
Join a Roommate Finding Service
Belive it or not, a roommate finding service can also help you find someone who's ready to sublet a room in your apartment. After all, subletting is a lot like finding a roommate, the only difference is that you are the primary roommate and they will be paying their rent to you, for you to pay to the landlord. A roommate finding service can help you locate a great match roommate whose income is in the right range and who is ready to move in soon.
Prepare to Accept Applications
Each place you advertise, be sure to also post a link to your application so interested parties can apply immediately. Be prepared to start receiving these applications via email or online form.
Carefully Select Your Finalist Subletter
Once you have a few applications to work with, it's time to narrow down your options. For each person who's a possible 'Yes', you'll want to go through a specific approval process that will make sure the subletting is a good match for both of you.
Provide Tours of the Space
First, make sure any applicant tours and likes the space. The last thing you want is to go through the whole approval process only for them to realize the room is too small, too high up, or too something else to move in.
Interview Each Applicant
Perform at least one personal interview, the same way you would a new roommate. Make sure anyone you're considering as a finalist seems sane, reasonable, and like a cool person to share your home with. Remember to ask important questions like when they go to bed, how much noise they make, if they clean up after themselves in the kitchen, and if they're bringing a cat.
Never let someone sign a lease with you before confirming their income. Whatever you're charging, it should be no more than one-third of your subletter's monthly income. This ensures that they should be able to pay your rent each month. Make sure to see proof that they are employed and receiving the salary they claim.
Run a Landlord Background Check
When you're ready to accept a finalist, run a background check. There's a special kind of background check for landlords that costs $30 to $60 depending on the service you use and thoroughness of checking. This will tell you if your applicant has a criminal record or a poor credit score, and for what reasons.
Call Rental References
Finally, call their rental references. Talk to at least one previous landlord (with proof it's not some friend faking on the phone) to confirm that this person is a responsible, tidy renter who left homes in good condition in the past.
Welcome Your New Tenant-Roommate
When you have finally selected someone and they've passed every roommate test, it's time to seal the deal and welcome them to their new NYC home.
Final Welcoming Spruce-Up
Take some time to do a final cleaning and spruce-up of the space you're about to rent. Run the vacuum one more time, polish the surfaces, and change the bed linens. Make sure there's soap and TP in the bathroom, and consider clearing a cabinet or two in the kitchen for them.
Sign the Lease to Seal the Deal
When all is ready, meet with your new subletter to sign the lease. This sets your agreement in stone. They will pay you rent and follow your rules and, in return, you'll provide a discounted place to stay in the heart of NYC where apartments cost an arm & leg to rent alone.
Loop In Your Landlord
Once the lease is signed, send a copy to your landlord along with the move-in date to make sure they are fully on the up-and-up in terms of your subletter. Landlords are usually concerned about who stays in the home and they may want documentation on who you've decided to trust with the apartment's welfare.
Collect First Month's Rent
With the lease signed, you're clear to collect the first month's rent and security deposit and officially begin your subletter's tenancy.
Put the Security Deposit in a Savings Account
Speaking of the security deposit, make sure this goes into a special designated interest-bearing savings account. This way, it will never be touched or spent by accident, and will be there for you if your subletter does accidentally cause some damage.
Share a Copy of the House Key
Finally, give your subletter a copy of the apartment key so that they can get in and out on their own.
Congratulations! By following these steps, you can quite effectively become a NYC landlord while still renting an apartment of your own. Subletting is a smart way to seek roommates while maintaining control of your apartment and can hold your new rent-splitting roommate to house rules set by both you and the apartment building. For more insights into saving on housing, roommates, and subletting in New York City, contact us today!