If you’re not going to be living in your college apartment for a few months, whether it’s because you’re going home for the summer or maybe because you’ll be interning in a different city, subletting seems like a no-brainer. After all, who wants to pay rent on an apartment that’s sitting empty?
However, while subletting has its advantages, you might not want to be too quick to commit to the task. Though it allows you to save on rent, subletting your apartment involves a lot of risk and inconvenience as well. It’s not always a bad idea—of course, in many situations, it’s a good one—but make sure you weigh these benefits and drawbacks carefully before making your final decision.
Con: You’ll Have to Completely Move Out
One major inconvenience that comes with subletting is the simple fact that you’ll have to move out. If you’re only planning to sublet your apartment for a short amount of time, think seriously about whether it’s worth the trouble of moving. While you don’t necessarily need to remove everything from your apartment, you should take any valuables or personal possessions with you. In general, anything you don’t want broken or stolen should go. If you have furniture and don’t want to take the risk of it being damaged, moving will be an even greater task. It could also be even more of an expense, as you might have to hire movers to help with the heavier items.
Depending on where you’re going, you might need to store some furniture or larger items near your apartment while you’re gone. Though the money you’ll make from your subtenant’s rent should more than make up for the difference, renting a storage unit for several months at a time will add up and you should take note right away if it will become a major cost.
Pro: You’ll Have Someone to Keep an Eye on Your Apartment
In the event that anything goes wrong in your apartment, whether a major issue like a fire or something minor like a leaky faucet, you’ll have someone around to deal with it. Assuming you find a responsible subtenant, they can take care of having appliances fixed when they break and can alert you to any larger issues that arise. You’ll therefore have some peace of mind in knowing everything is being taken care of.
If your apartment would otherwise be sitting empty while you’re away, having a subtenant brings in another big advantage—having someone live there will protect it from burglary. An empty apartment is an easy target for burglars, especially when it’s unoccupied for months at a time. If you’re gone for a long amount of time and leave some of your possessions around, you could be burglarized without even knowing it for weeks. Having a subtenant in your apartment will reduce the risk of a break-in and, again, if anything does happen they can let you know about it right away.
Con: Having a Subtenant Is Risky
Unless you already know them well and are sure they’ll be responsible, trustworthy and communicative, bringing a subtenant into your apartment is always a bit of a risk. Since your name will still be on the lease, you’ll be held responsible if your subtenant misses a rental payment or causes any damage to the apartment. Financially, this could mean incurring extra costs that you wouldn’t have had if you left your apartment empty. Plus, it’ll create some unnecessary headaches for you while you’re away.
Niccole Schreck, a writer for “U.S. News” and rent.com, even suggests setting aside some money in case your subtenant fails to pay the rent so you’re not caught off-guard. If there’s damage to the apartment, the cost of repairs will probably come out of the security deposit that you paid when you first signed your lease. If you do go ahead and sublet, consider asking your subtenant for a security deposit, so you have a way to hold them responsible for any damages.
Pro: You’ll Save Money on Rent
The most obvious advantage of subletting is that you’ll be able to save a lot of money by not having to pay the full rent on your apartment. This is, of course, the primary reason why most students would choose to undergo the often-laborious subletting process. It’s especially appealing if you’re going to be renting another apartment in the meantime, as no one—especially a college student—wants to pay rent on two apartments at the same time.
The overall financial benefit will depend on the agreement that you come to with your subtenant. You may not receive your full rental payments each month, depending on the demand for apartments in your area. According to Forbes, it’s safe to expect about 70-80 percent of your full monthly rental payment. Your monetary return, therefore, will depend on what you agree upon with your subtenant and the extra expenses you end up having to pay. Regardless, even receiving seventy percent of your monthly rent will significantly lessen the financial burden.
Con: Subletting Can Be a Long Process
Finding the best possible subtenant and finalizing all of the details with them is not going to be quick. The exact length of time it’ll take you to depends a lot on your luck, but it’s not something you can do at the last minute. Finding someone trustworthy to take over your apartment is extremely important, as subletting to the wrong person can lead to a number of problems for you. To be on the safe side, you should take your time finding, vetting, and getting to know your prospective subtenant before you finalize the process. Schreck suggests conducting a background check on your prospective subtenant to ensure that there are no red flags. If you have roommates, you might also want to give them the chance to get to know your prospective subtenant, since they’ll actually be living with the person.
Because subletting tends to be an informal process, you’ll also have to write up your own sublease agreement with all of the important details laid out. You can find online templates on websites such as Rocket Lawyer, but other than that you’ll be on your own. Depending on how thorough you want to be, these steps mean subletting will take up a lot of your time.
Handing your apartment over to someone else, possibly a stranger, should not be a decision that you take lightly. The process requires time and careful consideration if it’s done properly, and as such, your decision whether or not to go through with it should as well. The right decision for you will depend on your own circumstances, so take some time to think through all of the pros and cons before you rush into one.