Realty Bites

My landlord wants a sublet fee if I get a new roommate. Do I have to pay it?

By Austin Havens-Bowen  |
September 1, 2020 - 12:30PM

According to New York’s Real Property Law, landlords are not entitled to charge a sublet fee, but they might try to do it anyway.


My roommate moved out of the city due to Covid, but we still have five months left on our lease. I have to replace her to make rent, and my landlord has agreed, but wants to charge me a sublet fee of 10 percent. Do I really have to pay this?

According to New York’s Real Property Law Section 238-A, the only fee renters can be charged is a $20 application fee, says Sam Himmelstein, a lawyer who represents residential and commercial tenants and tenant associations (and a Brick Underground sponsor). So sublet fees to replace your roommate are not allowed.

Even if your lease says your landlord can charge you a sublet fee if you bring in a new roommate, it is not permissible under the law. But just because the sublet fee is illegal, doesn’t mean your landlord won’t at least try to get you to pay it. 

“Since the landlord might feel like they’re doing you a favor, they might also try to get something out of it,” Himmelstein says. But, you’re not legally obligated to pay it.

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You have the right to replace your roommate as long as the number of roommates moving into your apartment does not exceed the number of tenants on your lease, Himmelstein says. 

Even if your roommate was not on the lease, “you have the right to share your apartment with one other adult not related to you, and that person’s dependent children,” according to the Met Council on Housing

You do have some obligations: You need to notify the landlord within 30 days of your roommate's move-in date and tell them your new roommate’s name.



Austin Havens-Bowen

Staff Writer

Staff writer Austin Havens-Bowen covers the rental market and answers renters' questions in a column called Realty Bites. He previously reported on local news for the Queens Ledger and The Hunts Point Express in the Bronx. He graduated from Hunter College with a BA in media studies. He rents a one-bedroom apartment in Astoria with his boyfriend and their two cats.

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