If you’re in the property management field, you probably don’t like to hear the word ‘sublet,’ even if a sublet is only on an intermittent or temporary basis.  But did you know subletting could be happening all around you? Even though your leases may prohibit the act of subletting your rentals, sites like AirBnB, HomeAway and Vacation Rentals By Owner make it easy for your tenants to offer up their space without you being aware. While homeowners might appreciate these sites to list their properties, this can pose a problem for property managers who think they have stationary (and appropriately vetted) renters – who might not stay in one place so often, after all! So, how is this happening? Well, for starters, it’s very easy to use these listing sites and even easier to keep it a secret. Most sites don’t give the specific listing address – instead, they offer the general area where the rental is located. Someone looking for a rental wouldn’t know the specific address until they’ve booked and paid for the unit – which means that searching online to find troublesome subletters isn’t as easy as Googling the address! And despite the requirement of a host’s name when setting up a rental on these sites, someone could easily list a name other than their own.

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Okay, so how can I find out if my tenants are subletting? The best way to do this is to keep an eye out for anything out of the ordinary like travelers arriving frequently with luggage or lots of unfamiliar faces on a regular basis. You can always ask renters to give you a call if they ever feel concerned or uncomfortable. What do I do if I catch a renter doing this? If your lease explicitly prohibits subletting, then clearly your renter is in violation. However, every state’s landlord/tenant laws are different, so it’s important to do your own research or consult with an attorney to be clear on what steps you can take and how to take those steps when a renter has violated the lease.

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Why is subletting a big deal? There are three reasons why subletting presents risks for you. The first is your liability to others at the property. It is SOP in the property management field to do criminal background checks on renters.  This due diligence can be helpful if a renter does harm to others, as it may insulate you from negligence in having rented to the person to begin with. Another reason why you want to prohibit subletting is for insurance reasons. Landlord insurance policies typically don’t cover subletting, so if your renter has ‘rented’ your place to someone else and that person gets injured…you might end up in a big mess if that person sues. Finally, you may have vetted your renter’s previous  rental history prior to them moving in, but you don’t know their ‘guests’ or if they’ll take care of your rental. If your apartment is being subleased, it may not be taken care of in the best way and may need some extra TLC.   How can I prevent an illegal subletter? As you already know, it’s not easy to find out if your renters are subletting. However, something you can do is make your subletting policy very clear upfront – before your renter signs on the dotted line and moves in. It might even be beneficial to clearly define ‘subletting’ so they are fully aware. c

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