What to look for when subletting your apartment

If you are going to be gone for an extended period of time, chances are you will need to find a subletter so you do not have to pay rent for the apartment while you are away. How do you find someone to take over the rent, utilities and upkeep of your apartment? You will have to put yourself in a landlord's shoes and consider criteria like references and credit checks.

Similar to a resume for a job, a renter's resume should include information that will make him or her stand out against other candidates. While you hope to find someone you can trust to pay the rent on time and keep your home in exceptional condition, you can't be sure this will happen, as you may not know the tenant. However, there are a few things you should look out for when choosing a candidate as a subletter:

References: Ask a potential tenant for phone numbers or email addresses from prior management companies. Call or email previous landlords and ask if there were any problems with the candidate and whether he or she paid rent on time. Keep in mind that personal references may not be the best, as friends, family members or colleagues will not be able to speak for a candidate's credit history or cleanliness.

Finances: While proof of monthly income is a start, it may not tell the entire story. Credit card debt or student loans can affect a tenant's ability to pay rent on time. If the tenant had a good review from previous landlords, you may choose to skip further investigation. However, if you are on the fence about a candidate, consider further inquiries to help determine whether he or she will be reliable enough to pay the rent.

You can run a credit check with companies like Equifax or TransUnion. You will need the tenant's written consent that he or she is aware of a possible credit check, as well as his or her social security number. Then, you can fill out a form online explaining why you need the candidate's credit history. Expect to pay about $12 to $20 for each report. 

Ask them to sign: Similar to how you signed a lease with your landlord, ask your chosen candidate to commit with a contract. Even if the lease is only for three or four months, you do not want to be stuck with the rent bill if a tenant decides to up and leave. You may be able to print out a form for a sublet online depending on the state in which you live.

Be sure to include a clause in the contract regarding the security deposit. While you have already paid your landlord for possible wear and tear, you will want to protect yourself from being liable for any damage caused by a subletter.

Questions to ask: As you look for potential candidates, be sure to ask them how many people will be living in the apartment. Your landlord may have strict rules regarding the amount of people who can legally rent an apartment based on limits set by the fire department and city.

Also, don't forget to ask about pets if your building has a policy against furry friends.

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