In the increasingly crowded and expensive housing market in NYC, subletting apartments is not an uncommon practice. As a matter of fact, the vast majority of tenants have the legal rights to do so. But of course there are rules to govern the whole subleasing matter. As usual, each municipality has its own set of policies, so here is how to sublet in NYC.

Know the Rules

You can only sublet your apartment if you have the rights to do so. In New York City, all tenants in privately-owned buildings consisting of four or more units have the legal rights to sublet. Lease provision of any sort that restricts such rights is rendered null and void in favor of public policy. There are, however, a number of exceptions:

  • Public and subsidized housing: tenants in public and subsidized housing, for examples HUD-subsidized and Project-Based Section 8 Programs, are not allowed to sublet.
  • Non-profit building: tenants in non-profit buildings have no (or very limited) rights to sublet. Refer to your program guidelines to understand the regulation or limitation.
  • Co-ops: the term refers to a building of which you are both a co-owner/shareholder and tenant. The regulation and rights to sublet are enforced by the building’s by-laws. If the building had been converted from rent-stabilized to co-op, new subletting regulations set in by-laws do not apply to those who have already been tenants of the building prior to conversion. Such tenants retain their rights to sublet.
  • Rent control: tenants of rent-stabilized buildings have the rights to sublet, unlike those of rent-controlled ones.
  • Rent subsidies: tenants who receive rent subsidies may be in violation of their programs if they sublet.

Bear in mind that unlawful subletting is most likely a breach of tenancy, and therefore a sufficient ground for eviction. Fortunately there is an easier way to check online whether or not you have the legal rights to sublet.

What to Do

If you have the rights to sublet, there are some more things to do to get it done:

1. Send a certified letter (one with a return receipt) to your landlord regarding your intention to sublet no less than 30 days of the proposed subletting.
The letter must contain specific list of information as instructed by the NYC Rent Guidelines Board as follows:

  • Term of the sublease
  • Parties to the sublease (name and contact information such as home and business addresses)
  • Reason for subletting
  • Your address during the term of the sublease
  • Written consent from co-tenant or guarantor of the lease
  • Copy of the proposed sublease and the copy of your lease if needs be

2. The landlord may ask for addition information within 10 days after the mailing request.

The typical sublease agreement form is also available for download from here. Remember that if you are legally allowed to sublet your apartment, the landlord is required by the law to approve your request unless the landlord can provide reasonable explanations for the disapproval. If you receive no respond from the landlord within 30 days, that failure to respond can be legally considered consent.

3. Iron out the details with your subletter

Once all the prerequisites are met, the subletting term begins. You are still the actual tenant of the building, which means you are still responsible for fulfilling your own lease agreement. The subletter cannot pay the landlord, so you act as the middleman. No matter who the subletter is (friend, family, or complete stranger), ask the subletter to sign a legally-binding sublease agreement and send a security deposit.


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