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How easy is it to sublet your apartment?

In New York, the short answer to the above question is “not very.” Subleasing in our state is a reasonably complicated process and one which takes a fair amount of time. You cannot simply sublet to someone else on the spur of the moment and ask permission – or forgiveness – later.

In the first place, you must determine if you even have the legal right to sublet your apartment. You do if your apartment is in a building that is privately owned and contains four or more units. You have this legal right even if your lease says otherwise. You also have this legal right if you live in a rent stabilized apartment.

You cannot sublet your apartment, however, if one of the following applies to you:

  • You live in public or subsidized housing such as Section 8, HUD, etc.
  • You live in a nonprofit building
  • You live in a co-op
  • You live in a rent controlled apartment
  • You receive rent subsidies such as Section 8, FEPS, etc.
  • You are part of the SCRIE or DRIE program or another program in which the rent you pay is based on your income

Sublease procedure

Assuming you have the legal right to sublet your apartment, understand that you can only do so if you intend to be absent from your apartment for 30 days or more, but intend to return sometime thereafter. You can only sublet your apartment for periods of 30 days or longer. In fact, by law, you cannot even rent your apartment to someone who stays there for less than 30 days, let alone sublet it to him or her.

The first thing you must do if you decide to sublet your apartment is to obtain your landlord’s permission. You should do this by means of sending him or her a certified letter, return receipt requested. You should keep a copy of this letter in a safe place. The letter must contain the following information:

  • The name, permanent home address and business address of your proposed sublessee
  • The term (beginning and ending date) of your proposed sublease
  • Your reason(s) why you need to sublet your apartment, including the address where you will live during the sublease period
  • A copy of the written sublease agreement you and your proposed sublessee signed
  • A notarized statement, signed by both you and your proposed sublessee, attesting to the fact that the enclosed sublease copy is a true copy of the original sublease agreement you and your proposed sublessee signed

Your landlord has 10 days to approve or reject your sublease proposal or request you to provide additional information. If (s)he asks for additional information, you must provide it. Within 30 days of receiving your initial request or your additional information, whichever comes later, your landlord must send you his or her written permission to sublet your apartment or his or her reasons for refusing permission. If (s)he refuses permission, (s)he must state his or her grounds therefor, and these grounds must be “reasonable.” If they are unreasonable, your best strategy is to contact a knowledgeable landlord/tenant attorney to determine your next steps.

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