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How to Sublet Property and Protect Your Rights

by HillNow.com Sponsor — December 11, 2014 at 5:05 pm 0

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This biweekly sponsored column is written by the experts at Gordon James Realty, a D.C.-based property management company that specializes in managing condos, single-family homes and multi-family properties in the metro region. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

The D.C. metro area is teeming with transient and temporary residents, including college students, interns and short-term staffers, ensuring there are plenty of tenants who wish to sublet apartments and plenty of people to fill them.

Ads on Craigslist show sublets for just a few days to several months or longer. But regardless of the duration, experts warn that subletting carries risks for the landlord and tenant, and often advise against it.

Allowing subletting isn’t wise, especially in Washington, D.C., said Emilie Fairbanks, a landlord-tenant attorney practicing in D.C. and Maryland. District tenants may stay in apartments as long as they please, barring a valid reason to evict, she said. Subletting brings in an unscreened tenant without a direct lease with the landlord.

Instead of subletting, a landlord who is amenable to ending the current tenant’s lease could allow the tenant to help find a replacement, she said. The landlord could then screen the potential replacement just like any other applicant, terminate the first tenancy and sign a new lease directly with the new, qualified tenant.

“Everything is cleaner and much less likely to result in legal problems for you later,” she said.

Tenants may not take the same precautions property owners would in finding someone to live in the rental, and their selected person could fail to pay rent, cause damage or refuse to leave. Experts say evicting subletters can be difficult. Often the original tenant must be evicted as well.

Experts typically recommend that leases lay out subletting policies and, if it is allowed, require tenants to obtain written permission first. If landlords do allow subletting, they should always screen the subtenant, just as they would any other tenant, Fairbanks said.

Tenants who sublet become the sub-tenant’s landlord, with all the legal requirements and responsibilities that go with that.

Because the original tenant’s name is on the lease, he or she generally remains responsible for ensuring rent gets paid and the property is cared for. However, if the original tenant has left town or left the country, recovering any losses may be difficult.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of HillNow.com.

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