A lease and a sublease are both legal documents that specify the rights and obligations of the landlord and the occupants of a rental property. The two types of documents are not interchangeable; they have different purposes and are used in different situations. A lease generally takes precedent over a sublease.
A lease is a rental contract between a property owner and a tenant; a sublease is a contract between a tenant and a third party who lives in the rental property during part of the tenant's lease term.
The parties to a lease agreement are the landlord, who owns the rental property, and the tenant, who rents the property. If there is more than one tenant, all of them should sign the lease. With a sublease agreement, the parties are a tenant whose name is on an original lease, and the subtenant, who temporarily lives in the rental property in lieu of the tenant. In some cases, the landlord may also have to sign a sublease agreement.
Both lease and sublease agreements usually have a fixed term, but a lease agreement usually has a longer term than a sublease agreement. The term of a lease is often one year or longer. A sublease agreement may only last for several months. For example, a student may sign a lease with a one-year term, and then sublet the rental property during the summer break when he goes away for a vacation.
Responsibility for Rent Payments
With a lease agreement, the tenant assumes the responsibility to pay regular rent to the landlord. A sublease agreement does not transfer the tenant's responsibility to pay rent to the landlord. A sublease agreement gives the subtenant a legal obligation to pay the tenant, but the tenant remains the one with the legal obligation to pay rent to the landlord.
A lease agreement binds the tenant to certain obligations toward the landlord as stated in the lease. The tenant remains liable to these obligations, even if he has sublet the rental property to someone else. The tenant also assumes landlord-like responsibilities with a sublease agreement. For example, the tenant has to give sufficient notice to the subtenant to end the sublease arrangement, and the tenant has to follow proper eviction procedures if the subtenant refuses to move out when required.
Establishing a Sublease
If you're a tenant, you may be able to sublease to a third party if your lease agreement doesn't forbid it. But even if you legally enter into a sublease agreement, you typically are still responsible for paying rent to your landlord and/or making any necessary repairs for damage to the property ... even if the third party causes the damage.
Edriaan Koening began writing professionally in 2005, while studying toward her Bachelor of Arts in media and communications at the University of Melbourne. She has since written for several magazines and websites. Koening also holds a Master of Commerce in funds management and accounting from the University of New South Wales.