Residential Sublease Agreement FAQ - United States


A Residential Sublease is a legally binding contract made between the original tenant of a rental property (sublandlord) and a new tenant (also known as a subtenant or a sublessee). The sublease gives the subtenant the right to share or to take over the rented premises from the original tenant.

Usually, the sublandlord must get consent from the landlord before he or she is allowed to sublease the premises.

Typically, the subtenant pays rent directly to the sublandlord, who in turn pays rent to the landlord. Alternatively, the subtenant can pay rent directly to the landlord.

The landlord still holds the sublandlord directly responsible for rent and any damages, even if the damage is caused by the subtenant.

Residential Sublease Agreement BasicsThe Original Residential LeaseThe Residential SubleaseDamage Deposits and Insurance in a Residential Sublease AgreementInspection Forms in a Residential Sublease AgreementConsent in a Residential Sublease AgreementSigning Details in a Residential Sublease Agreement
Residential Sublease Agreement Basics
What is included in a Residential Sublease Agreement?

A Residential Sublease Agreement (also called a sublet agreement) typically addresses the following:

  • The names of the parties (the tenant, the subtenant, and the landlord)
  • The terms of the original/master lease (a copy can be attached)
  • The sublease term length (e.g. 6 months, 1 year) and whether the sublease is fixed or periodic
  • The amount of rent payable (if different from the original lease)
  • Information about making alterations or improvements to the property

In addition, a sublet agreement may also have provisions regarding:

  • Utility payments
  • A security/damage deposit
  • Insurance requirements
Who is the sublandlord in a Residential Sublease Agreement?

The sublandlord (or the original tenant) is the person who entered into a lease with the landlord, and who is now leasing all or part of the landlord's property to the subtenant.

Who is the subtenant in a Residential Sublease Agreement?

The subtenant or sublessee is the person who is entering into a lease to rent some or all of the landlord's property from the sublandlord.

Who is the landlord in a Residential Sublease Agreement?

The landlord is the person who owns the rental property and who the subtenant is renting property from.

What is the governing law of my Residential Sublease Agreement?

The governing law of your Residential Sublease Agreement will be the jurisdiction in which the property is located, regardless of which jurisdictions any of the parties (landlord, sublandlord, or subtenant) reside in.

Is a spoken Residential Sublease Agreement valid?

Oral agreements can be difficult to enforce. In the event of a dispute, a court would have to hear the evidence and decide whose version of the facts are true.

Alternately, courts are generally obligated to uphold the terms of a written agreement. Some jurisdictions may require that the Residential Sublease Agreement be recorded in writing in order to be enforceable.

How long is a Residential Sublease Agreement valid for?

A Residential Sublease Agreement is valid for the length of time that the sublandlord indicates in the sublease. The subtenant’s interest in the property cannot exceed that of the sublandlord.

For example, if the sublandlord has a lease for one year, the sublandlord would be unable to sublease the property to a subtenant for two years, since the sublandlord only has interest in the property for one year.

The Original Residential Lease
What is an original or master lease?

The original lease, also known as the master lease, is the Residential Lease Agreement that the sublandlord (the original tenant) entered into with the landlord.

Do I need to provide the subtenant with a copy of the original lease?

Yes, the subtenant is entitled to a copy of the original lease along with a copy of the Residential Sublease Agreement. The sublandlord can include a copy of the original lease with the sublease agreement or can deliver a copy directly to the subtenant.

Does the subtenant need to follow the terms of the original Residential Lease Agreement?

Yes, the subtenant is usually responsible for following all of the terms and conditions set out in the original lease.

This means that they must follow rules for smoking on the property or in the suite, pets, guests, and anything else listed as a term or condition in the master lease.

The Residential Sublease
What does automatic renewal mean in a Residential Sublease Agreement?

Automatic renewal means that the lease will continue indefinitely on the agreed upon interval (weekly, monthly, or yearly) until either the subtenant or the sublandlord gives notice to the other party that they will be terminating the sublease.

Can the original landlord terminate the Residential Sublease Agreement?

Similar to how the original landlord can terminate the master lease if the original tenant doesn’t follow the responsibilities listed in it, the original landlord can also terminate the sublease if the subtenant does not follow the responsibilities set out in the master lease.

Can I sublease a portion of my property in a Residential Sublease Agreement?

Yes, you can sublease a part or all of the leased property to the subtenant.

Can a subtenant sublease the property in a Residential Sublease Agreement?

Yes, it is possible for the subtenant to sublease the rental property as long as it does not exceed the terms in the original lease agreement, meaning that the lease length, lease costs, and lease obligations should remain the same.

Permission to further sublease the property by the sublessee must be indicated in both the original Residential Lease Agreement and the Residential Sublease Agreement.

As an example, consider this potential scenario:

  • The original tenant (sublandlord) has a 2-year lease on the rental property.
  • The sublandlord subleases the property to another tenant (sublessee) for 1 year.
  • The sublessee decides to further sublease the property to a third tenant for 6 months.
Can I restrict what alterations a subtenant is allowed to make to the property?

Yes, the sublandlord can limit what alterations the subtenant can make to the property. If the original Residential Lease Agreement lists specific improvements that can be made to the property, the sublandlord can either pass those permissions on in entirety to the subtenant or limit them.

The sublandlord can’t grant additional permission to the subtenant to make alterations to the property over and above what’s listed in the original Residential Lease Agreement.

For instance, if the master lease does not permit painting, the Residential Sublease Agreement can’t either.

Typically, the original lease will state that the landlord must consent to any alterations, in which case the sublandlord should obtain the landlord’s permission before permitting the subtenant to make improvements.

Damage Deposits and Insurance in a Residential Sublease Agreement
What is a damage deposit in a Residential Sublease Agreement?

A damage deposit is a sum of money paid by the subtenant to the sublandlord as collateral to cover any potential damages that the subtenant may make to the rental property. Usually the subtenant must provide the sublandlord with the damage deposit at the start of the sublease term.

The sublandlord holds the damage deposit for the term of the sublease to help ensure that the subtenant does not default on the terms of the Residential Sublease Agreement or otherwise damage the property.

Should the subtenant damage the property ("normal wear and tear" excluded), the sublandlord is entitled to recover the repair cost from the damage deposit. At the end of the sublease term, the subtenant will receive the deposit back minus any deductions for repairs.

How much should the damage deposit be in a Residential Sublease Agreement?

Damage deposits are usually equivalent to the value of one month's rent. The maximum amount a damage deposit can be is usually governed by each jurisdiction’s legislation.

Should a subtenant in a Residential Sublease Agreement have insurance?

While it is strongly recommended that the property be insured, the subtenant does not need to have their own insurance if the sublandlord has obtained sufficient insurance to cover the subtenant.

The subtenant will still need to insure their own belongings.

Inspection Forms in a Residential Sublease Agreement
What is a Rental Inspection Form?

A Residential Rental Inspection Report, also called a rental inspection form, is used at the beginning and end of a sublease to document the condition of the rental property.

The Residential Rental Inspection Report should ideally be completed together by the subtenant and sublandlord within a reasonable amount of time after the subtenant takes possession of the property, likely between 7 and 30 days.

The Residential Rental Inspection Report contains a description of the condition of the property at the time of the subtenant's possession and is also used at the end of the sublease term as a comparison tool to determine if the subtenant caused any damage to the property. It prevents the sublandlord from claiming damages were caused by the subtenant if those damages were there before the subtenant took possession.

Consent in a Residential Sublease Agreement
Do I need to create a Landlord's Consent to Sublease?

A Landlord's Consent to Sublease only needs to be included in the Residential Sublease Agreement if the landlord has not previously provided written consent to the sublease.

Can a subtenant use the property for business or other purposes?

The sublandlord can only authorize the subtenant to use the property for purposes that have been approved by the landlord in the original Residential Lease Agreement.

Before allowing the subtenant to use the property for an additional purpose (e.g. a business) that is not stated in the master lease, the sublandlord needs to obtain the consent of the landlord.

Signing Details in a Residential Sublease Agreement
I do not know when the Residential Sublease Agreement will be signed. Can I fill in the date later?

If you are unsure when your sublease will be signed, you can leave that section blank and fill in the date and signature at a later time.

Who should sign a Residential Sublease Agreement?

At minimum, both the sublandlord and the subtenant should sign the Residential Sublease Agreement.

A witness signature in addition to the sublandlord and subtenant may not be required. A witness should be a neutral third-party, which means someone that will not benefit from signing the sublease, and is not related to the sublandlord or subtenant.

Different states and local jurisdictions may have specific requirements regarding signing subleases. To avoid potential bureaucratic hold-ups, you can contact your local County Clerk office to check state and/or municipality laws.

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