When you have roommates and all of you are on the lease, everyone writes separate apartment rent checks to the landlord each month.
However, when you are the master tenant, or sublessor, you are responsible for paying the rent for the entire apartment. The burden for collecting rent from your sub-lessees is entirely on you. Because sub-lessees have an agreement with you, it is also your responsibility to ensure they follow the rules of your building so they don't get you in trouble.
As such, being a sublessor comes with a significant level of risk and liability should your tenants be late on rent or refuse to pay, damage property, or otherwise cause trouble.
When you are the master tenant, you are still a renter, but you also have to act as a landlord of sorts.
Understand your landlord's policies for subleasing. Carefully read the lease agreement you have with your landlord. Many leases will provide details on the sub-lessee approval process (and whether or not subleasing is allowed at all). These policies vary from landlord to landlord, as well as city to city, based on local laws and regulations.
Typically, if you are the only lease-holder in a multi-bedroom apartment, it would be expected that you will need other roommates to help you pay rent, and therefore subleasing will be allowed.
In addition to discussing this with your landlord, you should also check local rules and regulations to ensure you are fully aware of your rights and responsibilities as a subleasing tenant.
In many cases, landlords will require documentation from you about sub-lessees, such as applications and credit checks.
Carefully screen potential subtenant. Now that you are on the line financially for the full monthly rent of your apartment, you likely understand why your landlord had such a diligent screening process for you.
When you're assessing potential sub-lessees, interview them in person at least once to make sure you get along and that they seem responsible.
Also, have them fill out a rental application, similar to what your landlord required of you. Eforms offers a number of sample rental applications customized for each state that allow you to collect information about employment, rental history and income. Don't just take the information at face value — also do the work of verifying it by calling previous landlords and employers.
In addition to this rental application, you should also run a credit check on your potential sub-lessees. Previous evictions or late payments on bills will be major red flags, not to mention their actual credit score. Mr. Landlord.com, Experian and E-Renter.com all offer credit screening services for landlords at a fee. It is up to you whether you decide to cover this fee yourself or pass it on to your prospective sub-lessees.
Draft a sublease agreement with your subtenant. This is the most important element when it comes to protecting yourself as the master tenant.
Your sublease agreement must enforce all of the rules that are stipulated in your lease agreement with your landlord, as well as any additional rules you might have for your sub-lessees. For example, you might require rental payment from your sub-lessee several days before rent is due to your landlord. You should also require a deposit from your sub-lessee regardless of whether your landlord required one from you.
"There are many readily available sublease agreements on the internet, which you can download and adapt to your particular case," says Daniela Andreevska of Mashvisor, a real estate investment company. "This is the most time- and cost-efficient way to obtain a sublease agreement. Otherwise, you would need to spend a lot of time researching the topic and drafting an agreement. However, you should not just use a template you find online blindly. You should review it carefully and make sure it covers all the rights and responsibilities of the roommates you are subleasing to and of the master tenant."
Lawdepot.com offers a number of sublease agreement templates. However, you should likely work off of the lease you have with your landlord and modify the language accordingly to adapt it into a sublease agreement.
Being a master tenant comes with a lot of risk, but it can put you in a position to actually afford an apartment that would normally be out of reach.