What is the Difference Between Subleasing and Reletting?

The difference between sublet and sublease focused on who is responsible for the rent money and care of the unit.

  • A “relet” means a new tenant is responsible for a unit and pays the landlord
  • A “sublease” or “sublet” means someone else pays the rent, but the original tenant is still responsible for the rent and damages to the unit

Reletting and subleasing refer to different methods of renting out a property to a tenant. While they both involve a third party entering into a lease originally signed between the landlord and the initial tenant, they are different types of arrangements. Often, lease agreements explain whether the tenant may sublease the property and whether it may be relet or assign the lease to another renter, so understanding these terms can help prevent confusion and legal problems later.

Reletting a Rental Property

A landlord relets a property by having a new tenant sign an entirely new lease. This is also known as assignment of the lease to a new party. Re-letting the property voids the original lease, and releases the original tenant from any continuing obligations. The relet to another tenant establishes an entirely new contractual relationship between the new tenant and the landlord.

A property may be relet for any number of reasons but often generally follows a mutually agreed early termination of the initial rental agreement. Major life changes, such as job transfers or the birth of a child, may result in a tenant having to move before the lease period has ended. Sometimes a problem tenant is asked to leave or is evicted, allowing the landlord to relet the property to someone else.

Breaking a lease agreement does not relieve their obligation to pay rent. The landlord has to make a “diligent effort” to find a new tenant as soon as possible. This limits the amount of rent the original tenant would be responsible for after ending the lease before the contracted date. It is in the best interest of the original tenant to find a new tenant as well.

Subleasing a Rental Property

When a tenant whose name is on the lease rents a room, a portion of the property, or all of the property to another, it is considered subleasing(or subletting). The subtenant must pay rent and comply with the lease terms but the principal tenant remains ultimately responsible for the lease. So, if the subtenant owes back rent, the landlord has the option of suing the original tenant for unpaid rent.

Renting out your property to another for a short period (less than the entire term of the lease) is also a common sublease option. A university student may get a one-year lease on an apartment and try to sublet the apartment over the summer if they return home.

The principal tenant often faces liability for the actions of the subtenant. If a subtenant vandalizes the property, the principal tenant could be liable. Most landlords prohibit tenants from subleasing unless the tenant pays a fee and the landlord has given prior written consent. Subleasing without permission can be considered a breach of the rental contract.

If there is a problem with a subtenant and the initial tenant has drafted a sublease contract, the original tenant may serve a notice of eviction in some cases. A landlord may also evict a subtenant by serving a notice to perform or quit, which means the initial tenant is responsible for evicting the subtenant and may face eviction for failing to do so.

Subleasing, Reletting, or Have Other Concerns? An Attorney Can Help

Many times issues between landlords and tenants can be handled informally. But if you’re in a situation where this doesn’t appear to be an option, you’ll want to consider taking legal action. You should know your state’s laws and how they may apply in your case. It may be a good idea to meet with a landlord-tenant attorney if you’re involved in a dispute related to the subleasing or reletting of a property.