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Subletting an apartment in New York

Because renting an apartment in New York can be so expensive it's common for people to sublet. Often you can't rent a room or an apartment in NYC without proof of a certain level of income, squeaky clean credentials and references and a reliable guarantor. In many cases you'll need to be able to show an annual income of 45-50 times the monthly rental amount. Subletting, on the other hand, is seen as an easier way to get a place to stay medium to long term in New York, without some of the hefty commitment involved in taking on a lease yourself.

What is subletting?

Subletting is when you're renting from an original tenant - i.e. the one with his or her name on the lease. The so-called 'prime tenant' leaves the apartment and rents it to you while they're gone. In effect, they're acting as your landlord and you become a subtenant (sometimes known as a sublessee), paying rent to them instead of directly to the original landlord. As many professionals need to remain flexible (often needing to relocate at short notice), subletting provides a way for people to effectively cut short their lease if they need to.

Subletting differs significantly from getting a roommate. Though the two scenarios are often confused and referred to in terms of subletting, if the prime tenant is staying and getting you in as a roommate (or co-tenant), this has a different impact on your rights. To get the full lowdown on how subletting and being a roommate or co-tenant affect your rights, with particular reference to New York State, download our free Guide to Subletting and Sharing in New York.

What to watch out for if you're subletting in New York

If you're subletting a room or apartment you should try to check that the landlord has given their approval for the sublet. If the sublet goes ahead without the landlord's approval there's a chance that you could face eviction. Most landlords will be happy for the original or prime tenant to sublet, so long as they keep the right to approve or reject the subtenant they propose.

Even if the sublet is above board, disputes do arise. It's in your interest to talk to the landlord before signing up, to check that there are no issues lurking. Some landlords see requests for subletting as an opportunity to get rid of tenants or to increase the rent.

If you're the one leaving, you need to make sure the person taking over your room is going to be reliable paying the rent and returns the room or apartment to you at the end of the term in a reasonable state. Make sure you have a solid subletting rental agreement or sublet contract in place.

Subletting a room or an apartment doesn't put you in a strong legal position if you wish to stay. When the original tenant moves back in you'll need to find somewhere else to live. Putting your name on the lease from the outset gives you much stronger rights and you're less open to being evicted.

Further information

Find out more about your rights, and how to sublet safely in's free Guide to Subletting and Sharing in New York


Disclaimer - This information is for general informational purposes only and should not be treated as legal advice. We recommend you consult an experienced New York Landlord Tenant attorney if you require legal advice.

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