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Can a Landlord Ignore or Refuse my Request to Sublet?

In many jurisdictions your landlord cannot refuse to give consent to a sublet without reasonable cause.

If you request consent for a sublet or a lease assignment and present your landlord with a qualified applicant, it's likely that fair housing laws and common law prevent them from arbitrarily refuse to accept your applicant.

Common law is defined as previous rulings by judges that set precedents for what's allowed or not allowed. Reading about previous court cases in your state can help you to get an understanding of whether or not your landlord would be required to accept your proposed tenant or not. If there is precedent, then it would be easier for you to sue them for unreasonable refusal. Of course, no one wants to have to sue their landlord - but if you have the right information about what they're required to do by law then it can help you in your negotiations.

Here are some examples of court rulings:

  • In Louisiana, a landlord refused to let a commercial tenant sublet. They forced the tenant to pay thirteen months of rent and an early termination payment, and then immediately signed a new lease with the subtenant that the tenant had presented them with. The original tenant brought this to court, won the twelve months rent back as damages as well as lost profit that it would have made by subleasing.

  • In Illinois, a landlord refused to give consent to a request for sublease because they preferred to lease directly to the proposed subtenant. The landlord had to pay $1.6M in damages.

Commercially reasonable objection

There is one thread that runs through all of these court cases: the landlord must have a commercially reasonable cause for objection. They need to be able to prove one or more of the below claims about the proposed sublease or assignment:

  • A good faith belief that the proposed assignee or sublessee would not meet the financial obligations under the lease.
  • The need for alteration to the premises for the use of the proposed assignee or subtenant.
  • An increase in the number of persons to reside in the dwelling unit after the assignment or sublease that could place an unreasonable burden on the premises or the use and enjoyment of the premises by all tenants on the premises.
  • The landlord’s good faith reliance on information from third parties of the proposed assignee or sublessee’s inappropriate conduct.
  • The refusal of the proposed assignee or sublessee to sign a record agreeing to comply with the lease and the landlord’s rules and regulations.

Your options

If a landlord rejects a proposed tenant for unreasonable cause then the primary tenant could sue for damages. You would be arguing that the refusal was unreasonable, and would rely on relevant court cases from your state as precedent.

Search your state from the dropdown above to find out about restrictions on refusing a proposed tenant that might apply to your landlord.

Next steps

If you think your landlord is acting in bad faith then we suggest you also learn about his or her duty to mitigate damages. This concept is intertwined with reasonable versus unreasonable refusal of a proposed sublet or assignment. It's extremely likely that your landlord is obligated by law to accept a replacement tenant in order to avoid unnecessarily losing rental income.

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