What is a Real Estate Sublet?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 13 October 2019
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A real estate sublet is an agreement between two or more individuals who are both renters. The person who is offering the property is the primary renter or tenant and has an agreement with the owner of the property. He or she may, possibly, be allowed to rent the property to someone else, and this person may be called the subletter. There are different configurations in this form of double rental. Sometimes a renter may rent out a room or half privileges to the property to a roommate, or alternately, the primary renter may not occupy the property and rents it to someone else to occupy for short or long periods of time.

Subletting property with primary and secondary renters is a relatively common practice. There are many regions where rights to do this are defined by law or where they are governed by individual tenant and landlord agreement. Sometimes a property is not subleased in a legal manner, and this can be disastrous for the secondary renter. An angry landlord who finds out another tenant is illegally subletting could set off a chain of rental evictions.


To avoid this, people who want to sublet property from a primary renter need to be assured they have certain protections in place. First, they should verify that the primary renter is legally able to rent the property and/or has the permission of the landlord. It’s not too difficult to see why this is important. Should any repairs be needed, the person occupying the property would need to know who to contact to get assistance. Once someone verifies the legality of subletting, they can then concentrate on a legal contract that will clearly spell out rights and responsibilities of all parties.

Some secondary tenants wonder if it’s legal to be charged more rent than that paid by the primary renter. In most cases it is, even in regions where rent control laws exist. People can refer to their specific region to see if there are caps or limits on the amount of rent that can be charged.

Another situation with the real estate sublet is how rights are spelled out between roommates. Some roommates rent an apartment together. They share joint responsibility for rent, damages and et cetera.

Other roommates have more of the sublet scenario. A secondary renter rents a room or half of the property from a primary renter. This arrangement should be verified as legal. More importantly, secondary renters have to determine if they want to share half responsibility for things like damages and have their names put on a lease. If the primary renter has occupied the property for a long period of time, there may be damages the secondary renter is not responsible for, and this could mean losing a large share of a deposit down the road. Getting an inspection of the property by the landlord may be one way to minimize this risk, and subletting could also decrease risk, since roommates can make a decision at time of rental as to any damages that might presently exist on the property.


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