When the Subletter Renegs on the Rent

Hello Gentle Blog Readers,

I was going to write about urgent last-minute apartment fixes–but a friend is having an urgent problem, so I’m hoping some of you may have advice. Also, apartment living ethics fascinate me.

The problem? The subletter( who is an acquaintance of a current housemate) doesn’t think she should pay rent for August.

The background is that five good friends wanted to live together post-college and the only suitable place they found within their budget(ie had five real bedrooms) was in Washington Heights. So, they merrily moved in and proceeded to have lovely theme parties. A recent Hawaiian Tropics shindig was a blast. In any case, after 2 years, paradise and their NYC housing naivete ended when one friend decided to move back to Chicago. She did the right thing and found a subletter for her room from April – August when the lease was up. Also, when she first signed the lease way back when, she paid last month’s rent, so August rent should thus go back to her. She even wrote up a subletter’s agreement which the subletter signed, which stated the above.

Sounds peachy keen, right? Well, it might have been, had the gas not stopped working in May. Or had it been fixed in June. Or early July. But it hasn’t been fixed and so the other roommates have been on rent strike, reasoning that without gas, their apartment is unlivable. Furthermore, the landlord has been in and out and basically made a mess of their living room, but still no gas.

Of course, the subletter hears about the no rent phenomenon and thus doesn’t pay the landlord either. Which bring us to August rent. Should the subletter be obligated to pay rent to the girl who moved out? On one hand, she did sign the subletter’s agreement and it’s not fair for the girl who moved out to be stuck for the month since she did everything right. On the other, it stinks to be forced to live without gas AND be the only one in the apt to pay rent.

Hey, I think I did a pretty good job describing that–you might not even be able to tell who my pal is in the ordeal…

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Author My First Apartment

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I've lived in apartments in 6 cities (including 2 foreign countries). Does that make me an expert? As of now, my ceiling isn't leaking and I don't have rodents (knock on wood) -- so I'm going to say yes . . . but ask me again tomorrow:) These days, I'm enjoying life Chicago style, but my years in Brooklyn are never far from my mind. P.S. By day I work at Cars.com, but these opinions are totally, 100% my own.

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Comments (4)

  1. Avatar Eleyan

    I am having subletter problems, and no separate written agreement
    exists. The Sublet has traded on my good reputation and purse
    strings, by breaching my lease and not paying rent or bills on
    time. The Tenants Union looks at me The Head Tenant like I am
    the Devil and refuse to help me. The Sublet has drug episodes
    and has had dealers in my home regularly. He keeps changing his
    mind about whether he will leave as requested, or the most recent
    thing: He plans to stay and steal my house from over my head.
    He hasn’t paid rent on the 5thJune, and paid no house bills since before the 24th May. I have been forced to try and default to get
    him out. I have had heaps of moving costs so far. Consumer Affairs has given little real assistance and sat down with me to complete Notice to vacate forms but let me leave with them incorrect. I’ve thrown up my hands in despair, but I am really really angry and depressed.

    Last Tuesday I hired a truck and went in to remove my heavier items, the sublet housemate had vomited in the hallway and in the bathroom sink, and had messed the toilet, not cleaning any of it, lots of beer bottles in the kitchen. I am having to see a counsellor, because if the young guy doesn’t leave, I will be left to pay his rent until he does. Odds are I will be forced to default the rent and get evicted by 20thJune just to get him out.

    I wouldn’t wish this on any woman. I already had plenty of stressful issues of my own that are still not resolved and had to abort my college studies due to the burden on my mind and time.
    Eleyan. Let them on the lease from the start. At least if they breach the lease, the landlord can deal with them directly. If they are sublet, it’s like they are invisible under rental law.
    I tried time and time again to fill out forms, even 120 days to vacate with now reason, and every single form was wrong due to some kind of miscalculation or ommission. It is tragic.

  2. Avatar Alissa

    From what I know, the renters have been calling the landlord about turning on the gas since it stopped working in may, and have been promised many times that it’d be fixed in a week, two, by June, July 4th weekend for sure…and yet.

    Also, yes, indeed it it is a tricky situation!

  3. Avatar Andrew G

    My gut reaction is that the subletter should pay back the August rent as agreed. What kind of efforts have the renters taken to have the gas turned back on? I’m not entirely sure if a rent strike is the best way to go in that situation

  4. Avatar Sisko

    This is a tricky one. The party to bear the ultimate responsibility is the landlord who is not providing basic services to the tenants, but by becoming a “sub-landlord” the original renter implicitly promised to give the subletter livable conditions. Having failed that, even if for no fault of her own, the subletter has the right to withhold the rent. The original renter can go after the landlord for her money, maybe by suing in small claims court. Now, if the gas is fixed by August, then the I think the subletter should pay the original renter as agreed. But I’m not a lawyer, so I may be totally wrong.