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20 Costly Mistakes to Avoid When Subletting Your Apartment

Posted by Jennifer Oppriecht

On Wed,Mar 06,2013

20 costly mistakes to avoid when subletting your apartment

The subletting season is upon us.  Many Madison apartment dwellers are facing the approaching reality of a summer spent somewhere other than Madison, whether it’s a study-abroad program or just returning to the folks back home. For many, this means it’s time to look into subletting the apartment.

The sublet market in Madison during the summer months can be a competitive marketplace, one usually favoring buyers. Don’t wait until the last minute.  Get ahead of the rush and get your apartment listed now! Before you begin the process, keep in mind these 20 subletting mistakes.

1.  You don’t check with your roommates.  Ouch, this is a big one.  Here at SBA, we believe this is critically important. As such, we require all roommates to sign a written consent form saying that it’s okay to sublet your space.  Don’t try and sneak a subletter in – it will only lead to nastiness.

2.  You don’t ask your roommates to spread the word.  It’s a big mistake not checking with your roommates.  It’s an even bigger one to not ask them to send out notice to their friends about the sublet.  Use their network to advertise the space--it’s a good bet they’ll also be happier with the occupant this way.

3.  You fail to have a subletter complete an inspection form.  Your subletter may live in the space, but you’re the one with your name on the lease.  Ask the subletter to complete an inspection form, and then ask for a security deposit.

4.  You don’t run a credit check.  A commonly overlooked mistake is to jump at the first subletter-prospect who knocks on your door.  They may be willing to rent, but can they pay for it?  You can actually run a credit check on them to find out if they’re a good prospect.  Checking on criminal history through Wisconsin’s CCAP may also be a good idea. 

5.  You fail to negotiate payment of utilities.  Too many renters overlook utility payments, which can be a bad move if it’s a sweltering summer and you’re stuck with a huge air conditioning bill.  If the renter is going to foot the bill, ask them to make the proper arrangements with the utility company (and be sure you make the utility aware of the new subletter.)

6.  You forget to return the keys to the landlord.  Don’t count on your subletter returning those keys to the landlord.  It’s ultimately your responsibility, so be sure you set something up to ensure their safe return. Unreturned keys can result in lock change fees, sometimes hundreds of dollars!

7.  You forget to check the lease for a sublet clause.  Does your lease have a clause that prohibits you from subletting?  The simplest way to find out is to call your landlord and ask, or bring the lease to the Tenant Resource Center.

8.  You don’t put much effort into marketing.  Think that your apartment will sell itself?  Think again.   Other subletters are marketing their apartments at a fever-pitch, so get active on your social media networks and let people know you’ve got something on the market.  

9.  You don’t use your landlord’s marketing network.  Your landlord can be a bud by using their considerable web traffic and/or marketing expertise to help you get the word out.  Ask them if they help with publicizing sublets.

10. You overprice your sublet.  Unless you’re in a choice downtown Madison apartment (and usually not even then) don't expect to get top dollar for your rent.  Expect to get 70-80% of your rent in return.

11.  You overlook great free advertising resources.  Two great resources to post your sublet online are and Craigslist.   Be wary of the scams out there with Craigslist.  Be sure to check this list before using the service.

12.  You fail to provide the proper paperwork.  You should provide your landlord with an application form and a sub-lease addendum form for your subletter.  You also want to create an agreement which spells out the basic arrangement of the sublet.

20 costly mistakes to avoid when subletting your apartment
13.  You forget to ask for references.  Ok, you’re not hiring them for a job, but you are entering into a financial arrangement.  You’re well within your rights to ask for personal references, and to make sure they’re credible.

14. You don’t show up on the move-out date.  Try and structure your lease so that your subletter has to move out the day before the lease terminates.  Then make it a point to check out the apartment after they move out, or send a friend in to do it for you.

15. You forget to discontinue your cable.  Are you currently paying for cable or WI-FI?  Don’t forget to let your provider know that you’re moving out, otherwise your subletter gets a screaming deal!

16. You think you’re in the clear just because you charge a security deposit.  Don’t think you can rent to just anyone.  You are ultimately the person responsible for the apartment, so understand that any damages from the subletter come out of your wallet.

17. You don’t ask your landlord what they look for in a tenant.  No one knows how to pick out a shady tenant better than a landlord.  Be sure to ask them upfront what are their qualities in a good renter, and then follow their lead.

18. You don’t ask your subletter why they’re looking for a sublet.  Often this can be an indication if someone is jumping from apartment to apartment, and possibly leave subletters in the lurch.  Along with checking references and credit reports, this is a good idea.

19. You don’t clean apartment before a showing.  We’re always amazed at how many people assume a prospective renter will look past the laundry piles and the dishes stacked in the sink.  They won’t.  Make sure your apartment is clean, smells good, and shows off its best features.

20 costly mistakes to avoid when subletting your apartment
20. You don’t post great pictures of apartment.  If you take advantage of online services like Uloop and Craigslist, be sure to post pictures that show off the best poses of your house.  This article provides some tips.

Our #1 recommendation on subletting is to take your time.  People make these costly mistakes when they rush and get too nervous about the possibility of their space not renting. Start early, take your time, and do your due diligence before allowing somebody to become a part of your financial picture.

Do you have any costly mistakes to add to the list?  

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Topics: Subletting, Subletting An Apartment, Subletting Mistakes

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