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How To Prevent Subletting Nightmares

With the growth of short-term rental platforms, such as Airbnb, savvy renters are starting to sublet their rooms and apartments on these platforms without the informed consent of their landlords. Not only does this show disregard for other tenants — who may be bothered if an Airbnb guest hosts a loud party — but it places the property at risk of damage. Here’s what you need to know about subletting risks as a landlord.

Subletting Risks for Landlords

As a landlord, you meet tenants, perform a background check, and grant them permission to occupy your apartment. You do no such thing when your renters turn to a subletter. In fact, you may not know that your tenants have short-term tenants unless a third party brings it to your attention. Or, you meet a stranger when you stop by to make an emergency repair.

If the subletter damages the property, you have no legal claim against this person (since you did not authorize his or her stay in the apartment). Your only recourse is to hold your renter responsible for the property damage. As you can imagine, this often causes problems. Your tenants may be reluctant to pay for damage caused by someone else. You may feel loss of trust in your renters. The conflict could wind up in small claims court, requiring significant time and attention to resolve the matter in your favor.

How to Prevent Subletting Problems

Many cities — including Miami, New York and San Diego — have made short-term subletting by tenants illegal, so the law may be on your side. If existing laws prohibit short-term rentals, notify your tenants via letter. Let them know you won’t stand for subletting without your express consent. If your renters have been thinking about using Airbnb, this explicit warning can give them pause.

When a lease is up for renewal or when you’re issuing a new lease to renters, make sure there’s a clause that prevents subletting. If renters know that subletting the unit is grounds for eviction, most will opt not to risk it. If you do find out they’ve sublet the unit, you can move into the eviction process.
Also add a clause that addresses property damage that may be caused by guests — whether it’s overnight guests, romantic partners or attendees at a party. You can hold the renter legally and financially responsible for any damage that guests cause to your property.

When sending the lease to new renters, make sure to draw their attention to these clauses. You should not expect that every renter will thoroughly read the lease (even though everyone should), so it never hurts to demonstrate that you’re serious by adding a verbal warning.

Update your lease easily by becoming an American Apartment Owners Association member. Members receive access to low-cost landlord forms, tenant screening services, and other tools that allow them to manage property quickly and easily. All landlord forms have been vetted by real estate and legal professionals. These forms can also be customized with your property details and renters’ information. AAOA makes it easy to manage apartments and protect your interests with high-quality forms, landlord education and more.

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