In New York City, tenants have a right to sublet their property…..but they must receive permission from their landlord prior to doing so and provide very specific information to you about the new tenant. If they sublet without your permission, you have rights to protect yourself.
Steps to take if a Tenant has sublet a property without your permission
- Contact the original tenant. The best course of action is to start with a fact-finding conversation. Hopefully, you will be able to track this person down and ask them about the situation. If they are still paying rent to you, you should be able to do this. If not, the subletting tenant likely has a way to contact the original tenant.
- Determine that a sublease has actually taken place. Don’t jump to conclusions just because you see a new face in the rental unit. The new “tenant” may just be house-sitting or visiting. Talk to the new person and the actual tenant to find out what the situation is. If it turns out that the tenant has sublet the unit, document the time and place of the conversations you’ve had and the terms of the sublease.
- Inform the original tenant of their breach of the lease agreement. If your lease agreement specifically prohibits subletting, you have strong legal protections. Any sublet without your consent constitutes a breach of the lease. Inform the tenant, in writing, of the breach and provide them with options and a time period in which to fix the problem (i.e. evict the subtenant or speak to you about subletting the unit). This is best done with the advice and guidance of an experienced lawyer.
- Research your legal options. Any time there is a breach of lease, you should consult an NYC landlord-tenant attorney. Contact the attorney as soon as you learn that an unapproved sublet has occurred so that you can explore your legal options. Options may involve taking the tenant to Housing Court to force an eviction, undergoing mediation or dispute resolution. Don’t evict the subletting tenant without making sure you are within your legal rights. Again, your attorney will be the best source of advice for this situation.
What to do if your lease does not specifically prohibit subletting
If your lease agreement does not specifically prohibit subletting, you have a bigger challenge ahead. You have fewer clear legal protections and will need to rely on negotiation or legal force to end the sublease arrangement.
Again, the first step is to speak with the original tenant. Without subletting specifically prohibited by the lease, the tenant’s actions may be an honest mistake. Start by informing your tenant of the problem and explain your discomfort with the situation. This may be enough to encourage the tenant to end the sublease situation. If the tenant refuses, then you should contact a landlord-tenant attorney for advice on the situation.
You should also update your lease agreement right away to prohibit subletting. Hopefully, your lease agreement gives you the right to make changes to the agreement at your discretion. If so, provide the required notice (typically 30 days) to your tenants informing them of the upcoming changes to the agreement. This gives tenants a chance to comply with the agreement before you are forced to take legal action.
If you allow the sublease to stand
Keep in mind that if you allow the sublease to stand, the original tenant is still responsible for upholding their lease agreement with you. The new tenant must also abide by these terms even though a formal sublease arrangement or agreement would be set between the tenant and the sublessor. In effect, the subletting tenant now has two landlords – you and the original tenant. Any restrictions that the original tenant would have on the unit now apply to the subletting tenant.
Prevent problems before they start
Subletting can be a challenge for residential landlords even if they do allow it and even if the tenant follows the necessary protocols. If you truly do not want to deal with subleasing, sometimes you can take steps to prevent it by adjusting your lease agreement to prohibit subleasing. This will prevent any ambiguity or uncertainty over subleasing and provide you with the legal protections to end a sublease situation.
Discuss your sublet situation with a Landlord-Tenant attorney at Brasch Legal
Contact Brasch Legal at 212-267-2500 for assistance if you find yourself with an illegal or unwanted sublet situation. Our landlord-tenant attorneys are experienced in evaluating and handling matters concerning the sublet, assignment, and non-primary residence of NYC apartments.