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How to Sublet Legally in California

The Bottom Line: According to California law you must receive written consent from your landlord prior to subletting, and if your lease says no subletting, then that really means no subletting. The rules are different for San Francisco, where tenants have more subletting rights.

  1. Check your lease. Because California laws are not nearly as tenant friendly as other states, so what your lease says really matters. In many states lease agreements are actually illegal and voided by the law when they prohibit subletting, but in California this is not the case. So if your lease says no subletting, sadly that means no subletting.

  2. Mail a letter. You should send a letter to your landlord via certified mail, return-receipt requested, and save a copy of the document for your own records. Certified mail is the only proof of delivery that most courts will accept and thus is the best way to protect yourself. The letter should clearly outline the terms of the agreement and include the following information:

    • The term (starting and end dates) of the sublet or the date of the proposed assignment (30 days from when you sent the letter)
    • The name of the proposed subtenant or assignee
    • The permanent home address of the proposed subtenant or assignee
    • Your reason for subletting or leaving permanently
    • Your new address during the sublease if applicable
    • The written consent of any co‑tenant
    • A copy of the proposed sublease

    If you don’t feel like drafting your own agreement, we’ve got you covered.

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  3. Wait for approval. Unless you are in San Francisco and replacing a roommate, if your lease says that you are not allowed to sublet then your landlord can ignore or refuse your request with impunity. If you are in San Francisco and replacing a departing roommate then they must respond within fourteen days and if they do not then you are free to sublet.

    If your landlord rejects your request, know that they can only refuse proposed subtenants based on legitimate factors.

    Legal grounds for refusal may include:

    • The financial responsibility of the proposed assignee or subtenant.
    • Intended use of the property.
    • The legality of the proposed use.
    • The nature of the occupancy.
    • The compatibility of the tenant’s use with the uses of the other tenants.
  4. Contact a Tenants Rights lawyer. The Elke & Merchant Law Firm will be happy to advise you on legal action and ensure that your rights are protected!

  5. Stay responsible. Remember just because you aren’t living in the place anymore, doesn’t mean that you aren’t held accountable to the terms of your lease. It is still up to you to make sure that the rent is paid on time and that none of the lease terms are broken.

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.

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