Considering a Sublet? Ask These 5 Questions

By Lorena Roberts on March 14, 2017

It’s that time of year when people are making summer plans, which may or may not include staying in their current housing situation. This typically happens in college towns — and doesn’t necessarily happen only in the summer. Lots of people who study abroad look for people to fill the rooms they’re renting.

If you’re someone who’s looking for a new place for a few months, and you’re considering a sublet … here are five questions you should ask before you seal the deal. Trust me on this one.

1. Who are you? 

Did you find a rando off Craigslist? Probably not the safest bet. Before you agree to sublet a room or apartment, it’s best to know a good amount about the person you’ll be subletting from. Some people actually run a background check before they’ll even agree on anything — this is probably your best bet. It’ll keep you and the person you’re subletting from in the know.

If you’re doing a sublet search, you should probably start with groups on Facebook, where you have mutual connections. Ask your friends — maybe a mutual friend is looking for someone to rent a room to. This is always a much better idea than getting on Craigslist and typing in “sublets in insert city name here.

2. Can I see the original lease? 

This is a good way to check if subletting is even allowed. You definitely don’t want to get caught in that situation. When you’re looking over the original lease, you can check for utility allotments (if there are any) and rules of the apartment complex in general. Is Wi-Fi included? Cable? How is it split between the roommates?

How are payments accepted? Cash? Money order? On what day is it due?

Do you need to pay up front in full? (Some apartment complexes require that subletters pay the entire amount of rent up front in order to avoid losing track of the new resident.)

Is there a sublet fee? How will that be divided/taken care of? If you want my advice, the person from whom you are subletting should help you take care of this fee. 

Being as up front as possible with the person you’re subletting from as well as the property manager is going to turn out to be in your favor later on. You definitely want to be on these people’s good side throughout this process. Maybe you can get some of those fees waived?

3.  Can I meet your roommates? 

One of the worst decisions you can make for yourself is to move into a place where you don’t know who you’ll be living with. Make sure you set up a time before you sign anything so you can meet your future co-habitators. It’s important. Additionally, if you are uncomfortable with pets, this is a good time to establish if there are others besides humans in the apartment. 

Some important questions to ask once you meet the roommates:

•Is there a guest policy?

•Is there a showering schedule? Chore schedule? Or, more importantly, do they even split up the chores, or are they looking for a “maid” to move in? 

•What are the rules for smoking, drinking, partying, etc? Do they even have rules about this?

4. Can I see photos? 

Much like online dating, subletting a place without seeing multiple photos can throw you for a loop when you show up and it doesn’t look like the picture you saw online. Ask for more than one photo or set up a tour before anything is agreed upon.

Another good piece of advice regarding photos: Take your own photos upon arrival. Be sure to document the condition of everything once you move in. This will keep you from surprise charges at the end of your leasing term.

Don’t be afraid to haggle a little bit. You’re in a power position — they’re the ones who need to get someone into the place. Use this to your advantage by haggling the price down to what you actually want to pay. If they have to pitch in $100/month, that’s the price they can pay for having to get someone into their apartment. Don’t be afraid to negotiate your way down to a slimmer check.

5. Why is this available for a sublet? 

Are the neighbors noisy? Is the place unsafe? It’s important to know why the person you’re subletting from is subletting in the first place. You can easily avoid a nasty situation by getting all the details up front. Do the roomies suck? Wouldn’t you rather know beforehand …?

In addition to knowing everything there is to know about the situation you’re walking into, do some research on the actual complex itself. Read the reviews online, including Yelp and Google. And here’s a pro tip — when you’re on Yelp, you can actually read the reviews that “are not recommended” and get the real low down on the place.

Ask around: surely you’ll know people who have had experience with the complex into which you’ll be moving. They’re going to be your best bet as far as getting the real, honest facts.

Keep in mind that one of the easiest places to run a scam is online with a sublet. Be careful. Do your research. Know your stuff. And you’ll be fine.

Lorena graduated from The University of Tennessee in Knoxville last December with a BA in Honors Psychology. After some serious soul-searching, she's decided to pursue a Master's in teaching in order to teach middle school math! In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her Whippet mix, Gio, at the dog park and binge watching Netflix with endless cups of Hot Cocoa.

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