Subletting can be a big headache for landlords, especially if a tenant sublets a unit without the landlord’s knowledge or permission. If you do not allow your tenants to sublet units they rent from you, make this clear from the start. Including language to this effect in your rental or lease agreement can help avoid any ambiguity, and it may give you legal recourse if a tenant sublets one of your units against your wishes.
If a tenant has sublet a unit without your permission, here are some tips on how to handle the situation.
Determine that a sublease has, in fact, taken place. Make sure that the new “tenant” is not just house-sitting for your original tenant, and that they are indeed subletting the property. Interview both this person and the actual tenant (the person who originally entered into the lease agreement with you). Once you have ascertained that your original tenant is subletting, document when this occurred and under what terms the new tenant is living there.
A tenant who sublets is still responsible for upholding their lease agreement, and the new tenant must also abide by these rules. In most cases, a subletting agreement will be drawn up between the two other parties, leaving the subletting tenant subject to two different landlords.
Contact your original tenant. This may not be easy, particularly if you cannot track him or her down. Check with the new tenant who is subletting for current contact information. If the sublessor is paying rent to your original tenant, the sublessor must have some knowledge of the whereabouts of the original tenant.
Notify your original tenant of his or her breach of your lease agreement. If your lease agreement prohibits subleasing, then your tenant has violated the terms of the lease. Notify your tenant, in writing, of the breach. This notice should state what you plan to do if the situation is not rectified, and give them a specific period of time, such as 30 days, to fix the problem.
Pursue your legal options. If you have not been able to extricate the subletting tenant from your property, you may need to take your original tenant to court or to mediation. If this is simply a misunderstanding, mediation may be the easiest way to resolve the dispute.
Before you take any action, however, research your state laws. Since the original tenant has broken your lease agreement, the subletting tenant may not have the right to remain on your property. Before evicting the subletting tenant, make sure you are within your legal rights to do so.
If your lease agreement does not specifically prohibit subletting, resolving the situation will be stickier. Your state law may offer you a legal remedy, and there are other options that you can implement to rectify this situation. You can call the local housing authority for some assistance.
Your first step, of course, should be to update your lease agreement. If you have included a clause that updates may be made to the lease agreement at the discretion of the landlord, send out a notice to your existing tenants that the terms of the lease agreements are changing. Typically you will need to give 30 days’ notice before this change can legally go into effect, which will give your tenants a chance to comply before you take action.
Then inform your tenant of the problem. Although you may not have a clause preventing subletting in your lease agreement, you still may be able to get your tenant to end his or her current subletting agreement by letting them know that you are not comfortable with the situation.
Your actual legal remedies will depend on the state in which your property is located and the terms of the lease. You may have more or fewer rights than what has been stated here. Your best method of protection when looking to prevent a tenant from subletting is to expressly prohibit it in your lease.