Search for spring subleases can cause issues

By Lauren Laws

Signing a lease for an apartment is a binding contract that usually lasts for a full year. However, as the fall semester ends, some students realize that they will either graduate early or will be studying abroad in spring.

Instead of breaking their contract, students try to sublease their apartments.

Early December begins the search for second semester apartments and the race to sublease.

Students sublet for many reasons besides graduating or studying abroad.

“Some people (aren’t) happy with where they’re living,” said Esther Patt, coordinator of the Tenant Union. “(The area may have) a lot of crime, the landlord isn’t doing repairs or the roommate is impossible to live with.”

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However, some students have other reasons.

“I’m subletting because I moved in with my girlfriend,” said James Reed, graduate in LAS. “We have two cats and (my old apartment) doesn’t allow cats.”

When subletting, Patt said the first item that is a must is written consent from the landlord.

“Don’t sign papers and give money to the tenant,” Patt said. “You should be meeting with the landlord and the new tenant should be signing the contract with the original tenant.”

The problem is that without the contract, the original tenant won’t be able to prove how much the new tenant has to pay and won’t be able to sue for unpaid rent, Patt said.

“Subleasing is not a release from the lease,” Patt said. “You are still reliable for the tenant. The subtenant is basically living there for free.”

Patt added that it doesn’t hurt to require the subtenant to pay some amount of a damage deposit. The original tenant should check with the landlord monthly to ensure that the subtenant is paying rent.

“If the original tenant doesn’t check with the landlord to see that they are paying, the landlord will send the bill to the leasers,” Patt said. “We hear about this a lot.”

Some apartment companies have a way to fix this problem though.

“The reason I (subleased) through my apartment company is that in case they don’t pay their bill, it’s owed to Bailey (Apartments) and not to me,” Reed said. “They sign the lease through them and require them to put down a deposit so damage comes from them.”

Subleasing may be more difficult than renting though.

“It’s real easy to find (a sublet) in spring semester since there are more people leaving than looking,” Patt said. “Supply is larger than demand (so renters) have more bargaining power.”

Some students are concerned about finding someone to sublet their apartment to.

“I worry about nobody taking my place (because when) I come back to my home country, I still have to pay for next year,” said Ming-Yu Chou, graduate student. “I’ve only posted (ads) on Taiwan Internet and The Daily Illini and I’ve told my apartment office but I don’t think they want to help me.”

To inform others of a sublet, Patt said that students should advertise everywhere possible, such as The Daily Illini, Craigslist, Facebook and e-mail.

Also, if an offer doesn’t appear before or during finals week, don’t give up.

“A large number of people who want an apartment for spring semester shop between Jan. 2 and Jan. 20,” Patt said. “Keep going until school starts and run (an) ad over winter break.”

For students looking for a spring sublease

1. Ask the subletter why they are subletting. If the answer is because there have been burglaries, the roommate is impossible or the landlord isn’d doing repairs, then that may not be a place you want to live.

2. Don’t sign papers and give money to the tenant. Do so with the landlord.

3. If there’s any reduction in rent being offered by the original tenant, it should be paid up front in full when the lease is signed.

4. Don’t pay a damage deposit to the original tenant under an agreement that the landlord will refund the original tenant’s deposit to you.

5. Always have a written sublease contract that states the terms for both parties for legal reasons.

Things to do for students subleasing

1. Obtain written consent from landlord.

2. Have written sublease contract that states the terms for both parties. Needed for legal purposes.

3. Advertise everywhere possible, and don’t give up once finals are over since students still look for apartments in January.

4. Once sublease has been settled, check in periodically with the landlord to ensure the subtenant is paying the rent. It’s your job to contact the landlord. If not, you could get the unpaid rent bill.

5. If you want to sublease because you want to move in to another apartment in the area, rethink it. It’s better to stay where you are and move somewhere else next year.

source: the tenant union