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New York City is a wonderful place to live, but sometimes you just need to get out. Like really get out and live in another city, because even though you might like to think of NYC as the center of the universe, it’s a big world out there, and there’s a lot to experience.
Subletting your apartment is an excellent way to experience living in a new place for a few weeks or months, and better yet, make some money in the process. However, there are a number of important considerations to make before handing your keys over to a stranger, or even a friend.
Make sure you’re allowed to sublet
This is a biggie. If you rent or have a roommate, you’ll need to make sure everyone involved is okay with you bringing in someone else, that’s a given.
Then there are the legal considerations. While you can try to pull a fast one over on your landlord, it could result in your eviction if it’s a violation of your lease, and besides, who wants to needlessly upset the person in charge of dictating your rent?
Subletting in New York City is also unique thanks to the multiple dwelling law, which dictates that sublets must span a minimum of 30 days in order to be protected by the city. Additionally, if you're living in a rent-controlled apartment or Section 8 housing, you should check the rules before subleasing. Co-ops and condos will also have rules about subletting that should be carefully reviewed.
That said, the majority of tenants do have the right to sublet, and your landlord must have a solid reason for saying that you can’t (i.e., your prospective subletter has poor credit, is unemployed, etc.) Here’s what you should do:
One month before you want to start your sublet, send a certified letter to your landlord (with a return receipt), informing him or her of your intent to sublease. There is a specific list of information this letter must include, according to New York Real Property Law 226-b, which you should consult here and you can download a free version here.
Then, your landlord will have 10 days to request additional information. If you don’t hear anything for 30 days, silence equals consent, and you may consider yourself approved to sublet.
Check out your social networks first for a subletter
As with finding a new roommate, you will obviously first want to ask people you know. Send out an email blast, post on Facebook, ask friends and acquaintances you’re chatting with at parties or over coffee—you never know who might know someone looking to visit, or who might happen to be in-between apartments. If that fails, try some of the myriad real estate sites out there that allow you to search specifically for subletters, like Flip and RentHop (and check out Brick Undergrounds 14 best websites for finding a roommate).
Get a security deposit and rental agreement
Even if your subletter is a friend, be sure to get a security deposit and have them sign a rental agreement. It might seem awkward, but ironing out the nitty-gritty ahead of time is the best way of ensuring your friendship remains intact if something breaks, gets stolen, or otherwise goes wrong.
If your subletter is a stranger, interview them thoroughly before agreeing to hand over your keys. Assuming you intend to leave your belongings at home, remember that person is going to be sleeping in your bed and inspecting their teeth in your mirror. You want someone you have a good feeling about.
Designate someone local in case of emergencies
This can be one of your roommates, if you’re on sufficiently good terms with them, or a friend. You just want someone nearby with a key that is prepared to handle a situation in case of an emergency, like a flood in your apartment. In terms of thanking them, think of how you’d compensate someone for caring for a plant or pet—you can pay them, or if that feels weird, take them out to dinner when you’re back.
Lock up your valuables
Just like asking for a security deposit, storing your valuables isn’t a sign you don’t trust people. It just means that if things really go awry, you’ve taken precautions to keep your most treasured possessions safe. Buy a safe or lock box, preferably a fireproof and waterproof one, and put away your expensive jewelry or a cherished journal. It will give you peace of mind and help you enjoy your time away until you’re pining to return to NYC.
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