The Bottom Line: According to New York Rent Guidelines, you have the absolute right to sublet your apartment at no additional cost. You need to follow the guidelines, but your landlord can’t “unreasonably refuse” your request.
Special case: Subletting rent stabilized apartments in New York is a little more complicated and requires more care. The tenant still enjoys the right to sublease, but they must maintain the apartment as their primary residence. For example, if you wish to sublet while you take a temporary job assignment, or you are in the military service or college, or you expect to spend four months wintering in Florida, you may still be considered a primary resident.
Check your lease. If your lease doesn’t mention anything about subletting then you are free to do so. But, most likely, your lease contains a clause which requires you to obtain your landlord’s approval prior to subletting.
Request approval. 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
- The name of the proposed subtenant
- The permanent home address of the proposed subtenant
- Your reason for subletting
- Your new address during the sublease if applicable
- The written consent of any co‑tenant
- A copy of the proposed sublease
- A full application from the proposed sublessee — as much information about this person’s finances and background as you can get, the better
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Wait for approval. Your landlord must respond to your inquiry within thirty days of mailing the initial notice. If the landlord doesn’t respond then their consent is assumed and you are free to sublet.
If your landlord rejects your request, know that he can only reject proposed subtenants based on legitimate factors and can’t “unreasonably refuse” the request.
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.
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 your rent is paid on time and that none of the lease terms are broken.
A note on assignments — people often come to Flip hoping to assign their lease because they want to transfer all of the rights and responsibilities over to someone else. Your landlord actually can unconditionally withhold consent to assign your lease. But if they do, they have to release you from the lease within 30 days of your requesting.
In either case, if the landlord unreasonably withholds consent you could take them to court. You would have some decent precedents to back you up in your case. If it is found that they acted in bad faith by withholding consent, then you would recover court costs and attorney’s fees as well as your deposit and any rent that you paid unnecessarily.