Renting or subleasing your co-op apartment has a number of important differences from subleasing a rental apartment that you should keep in mind to avoid costly, complicated legal conflicts. Many co-ops prohibit subleasing and those that allow it have terms, restrictions and fees outlined in your proprietary lease or contract with the co-op that defines the terms on which you live in the apartment. A sublease may help you cover your costs, while helping the co-op board and other shareholders feel sure that whoever lives in your apartment keeps life in the building safe, comfortable and unproblematic.
Read your proprietary lease and co-op policies to determine the restrictions and terms on which subleasing is allowed, if at all. These vary by co-op but often include requesting co-op board approval before subleasing, paying a subleasing fee to the co-op or signing written agreements with the board and subleasee outlining the terms of the sublease, such as the length of the sublease and rent level.
Select a subleasee carefully. Both you and the co-op board will want to make sure that the subleasee is a conscientious temporary resident who can pay the rent. To do so, obtain information and interview prospective subleasees to ensure you have full information about their identity, current address, current sources of income and personal and landlord references.
Request approval of your sublease from the co-op board. Make your request in writing in care of the building management indicating the terms of the lease and the information you have collected from the prospective subleasee. Management should turn this request over to the board who usually ask management to perform a background check in order to make a decision. Boards frequently deny sublease requests if the shareholder has made a habit of subleasing or the subleasee’s background check gives them reason to believe they could be a problem tenant.
Sign a sublease agreement with your subleasee. Your sublease agreement should hold the tenant to the same obligations you have as a shareholder to ensure that you can remedy a situation where the subleasee isn’t fulfilling them. This does not include paying maintenance fees to the co-op as those are still your responsibility as a shareholder. In fact, having a subleasee or other third party pay your maintenance can establish a landlord-tenant relationship between the third party and the co-op that may prove legally complicated in the future.
Subleasing can be contentious and disputes can often end up in court. It's always best to have qualified legal advice and maintain open communication with your co-op board.
- Subleasing can be contentious and disputes can often end up in court. It's always best to have qualified legal advice and maintain open communication with your co-op board.
A writer since 2005, Elizabeth Ontaneda is a planner and consultant specializing in housing and organizational development. She has developed training curricula and written materials for the nonprofit Urban Homesteading Assistance Board and has presented at the Annual Conference of the Council of New York City Cooperatives and Condominiums. She holds a Master of Science in urban development planning from University College London.