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Subletting Laws in California

In California, your right to sublet is governed by what it says in your lease. According to the California Department of Consumer Affairs most leases contain a term that prohibits tenants from subletting. If you find this term in your lease then you will need to get your landlord’s special permission to sublet.

If your lease makes no mention of subletting at all then this ambiguity it is construed in favor of the tenant. Although the relevant law doesn’t state this explicitly, the strong presumption is that a tenant may sublet in this case.

If your lease has a clause that says you can sublet with prior consent from your landlord then you should get written consent, and if you are ignored then you may be able to move forward if you are ignored, depending on your city.

If your lease has a clause that explicitly prohibits subletting then you still may be able to sublet depending on your city's laws. You will need to follow the same process for requesting approval as someone whose lease says that they can sublet with landlord consent.

Subletting laws in San Francisco

In the late 1990s, San Francisco's rent board passed ordinance 6.15, which was meant to protect tenants who needed to bring in new roommates or sublet their apartments to help cover the rent burden. The ordinance specifically protects home sharers whose landlords make it difficult for them to replace roommates and also protects renters subletting their entire apartments.

Even if your lease in San Francisco outright prohibits a sublet, your landlord cannot unreasonably refuse you request to do so and can't evict you for subletting. A prohibition clause is only valid if the clause is in boldface or enlarged type and separately initialed by you or if you were provided with a written explanation of the meaning of the prohibition.

Subletting laws in other cities

Other cities in California, like Oakland and Berkeley enacted similar laws, however these laws are more explicitly designed to protect renters in roommate situations rather than renters who are subletting their entire home. In most situations, you should request approval in writing, with a reasonable warning period and amount of information.

Next steps

If you are looking to sublet a room or apartment in San Francisco, Los Angeles or any other city in California then you should read up on how to get landlord consent for a sublet in California, if your landlord can ignore or refuse your request to sublet and if and when you can get evicted for subletting.

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