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What is the Difference Between Subleasing and Reletting?

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 vastly different types of arrangements. Often, lease agreements explain whether the tenant may sublease the property and whether it may be relet to another renter, so understanding these terms can help prevent confusion and legal problems later.

See FindLaw's Landlord Tenant Law section for more related articles and resources.

Reletting a Rental Property

A landlord relets a property by having a new tenant sign an entirely new lease, thus voiding the original lease (and releasing the original tenant from his or her obligations). Thus, the relet to another tenant constitutes an entirely new contractual relationship.

A property may be reletted for any number of reasons, but often it 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.

Whatever the reason for breaking the lease, most states require the landlord 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.

Subleasing a Rental Property

When a tenant whose name is on the lease rents a room, a portion of property, or all of the property to another, it is referred to as 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.

The principal tenant often faces liability for the actions of the subtenant; so if a subtenant vandalizes the property, for example, the principal tenant is responsible. Most landlords prohibit tenants from subleasing unless they have given prior written consent, which means subleasing without permission can be considered a breach of contract in many cases.

If there is a problem with a subtenant, and the initial tenant has drafted a sublease contract, he or she may serve a three-day notice of eviction in most cases. A landlord may 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.

Consider meeting with a landlord-tenant attorney if you are involved in a dispute related to the subleasing or reletting of a property.

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