If your lease says nothing about subletting then the landlord cannot unreasonably withhold consent to sublet in California. The remedy for a tenant whose sublet is unreasonably refused is that the tenant may sue for damages and may terminate the lease.
If the lease states no subletting, however, then a landlord can unreasonably refuse a sublet. That said, the rules vary based on your city and if you are attempting to sublet your entire unit or part of the unit.
If you live in San Francisco and your lease contains a clause that says you can sublet or assign with landlord consent, then your landlord can't ignore or refuse your request without giving you a reason. This is described in 6.15 of the city's rent ordinance. Here's what you need to know:
Within five days of your landlord receiving your request you may receive a request to submit a completed standard form application for the proposed new tenant so that the landlord can run a background check. Your landlord can only request a credit or income check if the subtenant will be paying rent to the landlord
Within fourteen days, if your landlord hasn't respond to your request in writing with a description of the reason for denial - including specific facts supporting the reasons for the denial the request is deemed approved.
If your lease in San Francisco specifically prohibits the sublet of the property, then the subletting of the entire property is prohibited as long as the clause in the lease is in boldface type and initialed by you, or your landlord gave you a written explanation of the prohibition. If the lease designates a specific number of tenants or if there was originally a recognized tenant in the property that has since left, though, then you can replace that tenant even if the lease prohibits subletting.
Similarly, in Oakland, if your lease specifically prohibits the sublet of the property, then the subletting of the entire property is prohibited.
However, if you continue to live in the unit and replace the departing tenant(s) with the same amount of subtenant(s), Oakland’s ordinance states that a landlord may not unreasonably withhold the right to sublet after a tenant makes a written request to sublet, and a failure to respond to the tenant’s request to sublet within fourteen days would be treated as an approval.
The City of Berkeley has adopted the same approach as Oakland: if your lease says nothing about subletting, then you may sublet. Your landlord must articulate a well-founded reason for refusing consent to the sublease in writing.
If your lease absolutely prohibits subletting, then you may not sublet, unless you are replacing a roommate.
The City of Los Angeles does not differentiate between the subletting of one’s apartment to replace a roommate and the subletting of the entire property.
In Santa Monica, in a situation where a tenant of the original lease continues to reside in the rental unit and replaces other tenants who have moved out with the same amount of subtenants, the landlord may not withhold a right to sublease if the tenant makes a written request and fails to provide a reasonable reason within fourteen days.
After you've reviewed your lease you'll have a better sense of where you stand, but in any situation it's best to request approval for a subtenant in writing. List your room or apartment to find a tenant, then prepare a sublet agreement use the application that Flip generates for you to request approval.
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