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The Dangers of Illegal Subletting to Property Owners

Some tenants take it upon themselves to dabble a bit in property management, illegally and without your knowledge or consent subletting out all or a portion of the premises they are renting from you to someone else.

But as a property owner and/or landlord, you cannot allow this to go on. It’s true you can legally evict an illegal subletter if you catch him, make him pay for property damage if he caused any, and make him pay for the full remaining rent of the lease term if you made a good faith effort to find a replacement tenant but couldn’t. And any rent unpaid by the “extra” tenant or any property damage he may have caused, the “original tenant” is liable for.

But many times, the damage is done and pursuing the former renter may not even be worth your time and effort. Thus, it is important to catch illegal subletters early.

The Problems Illegal Subletting Causes You

There are a number of reasons you should not be nonchalant about the possibility of an illegal sublet situation on your premises.

First, it deprives you of the ability to adequately screen your tenants so as to keep your properties safe, and make your other tenants and prospective new tenants, feel safe. You need people who will not destroy your property, who will pay and on time, and who will not disturb their neighbors. You don’t need a “bad risk” secretly foisted upon you.

Second, if your unscrupulous tenant is not even living in the apartment he or she is renting from you but is leasing it out at a higher rate than what you are getting, you have “a racket” on your hands. The money beyond the normal rent should not be charged, and if it is, it should go to you not to your renter.

Third, sublet situations often go awry. Disputes and fights could arise, and one or both of the renters may suddenly leave. If the original renter leaves, you may not want the new tenant after you find out about him or he may not be able or willing to pay the full rent. If the sublet renter leaves, the original renter may not pay the full rent going forward (even if he stays); after all, why was he subletting if he could afford the rent on his own?

But let’s add that a landlord-approved sublet situation need not be a negative at all. If the extra renter is screened and passes, and the original renter is willing to be responsible for everything in the event the sublet renter lets him/her down, it may be just fine. But secret subletting is offensive, illegal, and risky.

How to Catch Illegal Subletters

It is not always practical to monitor all your tenants in-person or to search their rooms in search of possible sublet tenants. And that might offend your law-abiding tenants and drive them away! A better way is to monitor primarily online at Airbnb, where many illegal sublet deals are made.

Sign up to get an alert if/when an illegal subletting situation is discovered at one of your properties. The alert can come by email and be sent to you within 24 hours of your property appearing for sublet or “lease” on Airbnb.

With 24/7 monitoring and rapid response, you won’t have to wait until your property is damaged or you have suffered any loss. You will often find out about a sublet offer of your property before the sublet renter ever even moves in. And by posting upfront that you monitor online (don’t give away where of course), you can discourage anyone from attempting an illegal sublet to begin with.


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