A Beginner’s Guide to Taking Over Someone’s Lease

African American girl with glasses shaking hands with friendApartment hunting is usually a pretty straightforward process. You find a place you like, submit an application, then give the landlord your John Hancock. Sometimes, though, you want to break the mold…or you really, really need short term housing. Whether you’re doing a friend a favor, mixing things up for the summer, or just fell in love with an otherwise unavailable unit, it may be time to break with tradition and consider taking over a lease. There are two way to do this: a sublease or an assignment of the lease.

Sublease vs assignment of the lease: What’s the difference?

Liability and points of contact. With a sublease, you sign a contract directly with the current tenant. While your agreement could involve making payments to the landlord (instead of through the current tenant), all legal matters run through the tenant. Your sublease–not the apartment’s original lease–binds behavior and liability.

When you sign an assignment of the lease agreement, you work directly with the landlord. Although the tenant typically lists the apartment on their own, all paperwork runs through the leasing office. All in all, it’s a regular lease, just for a shorter period of time.

Three tips to know about both lease types

Although details may differ, there are a few things to keep in mind for both types:

  • Have a good contract. Fortunately for all of us non-lawyers out there, the internet makes it very easy to create generic, state-specific model contracts. Then, just add or modify what you need. Be sure to include everything from the cost for damages to rent due dates. No one wants to get caught with nasty surprises or conflicts down the line.
  • Take pictures. It’s important to note any damages to the apartment before the original tenant leaves. If they’re gone before you arrive, make sure to document any problems and contact them ASAP, just like you would when renting a car. You don’t want to wind up paying for damage from their great dog debacle of ‘09 when you only moved in last month.
  • Know the apartment. Like people, no two apartments are the same, and the rules of each complex can be, well, complex. When it comes to taking over a lease, ignorance isn’t bliss. You don’t want to be hit with a major fine when you move out just because you hadn’t thought to check out the pet or smoking rules.

Still have questions about short-term housing?

Now that you get the gist of how some short-term housing contracts work, we can move on to a few other important questions:

How much should subletting cost? They will typically cost 70-80% of the apartment’s regular monthly rent, according to Forbes. That price may increase within busy markets or high-demand seasons.

Where can I find short-term apartment listings? Taking over someone else’s lease is one way to find short term housing, often at the last-minute, but you can also do so on ApartmentSearch.com. ApartmentSearch even pays you to use it! Can other apartment locating services say that? We didn’t think so. When you find a short term apartment with us and let your new landlord know where you found them, you could be rewarded with up to $200!