In a real ad posted on craigslist, a popular website for free classified ads, someone is looking to rent out their 22nd Street apartment in Manhattan. It’s a 625-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment with a doorman, air-conditioning, laundry room and more. No pets are allowed in this apartment. It doesn’t say why this person wants to sublet—it could be because he is traveling for an extended period of time, or perhaps he has been relocated due to his job, but he needs someone to move in and continue the payments and care of his dwelling.
In the fictitious apartment down the street, in-laws have come to visit and—fortunately or unfortunately depending on your family—they need to extend their visit. Anyone who’s lived in New York City for any amount of time knows all-too-well this out-of-town-guest phenomenon. Given the expense of hotels and even the desirability of New York City as a tourist destination, New Yorkers are accustomed to having family, friends and guests in their apartments several weekends each year—sometimes even more frequently than that.
It’s also common for apartment-dwellers who plan to be out of town for awhile, like the craigslist poster above, to sublet their units as a money-making (or money–saving) strategy. Find a student, a recently transferred worker, or a tourist on an extended vacation—someone who’s going to pay the same, or more, for your unit while you’re away—and, when you come back, it’s still yours.
A Growing Trend
“Subletting is more common today because residents are becoming more transient than they were before—mostly because of jobs,” explains David Berkey, a managing partner with Gallet Dreyer & Berkey LLP, a law firm in Manhattan.
However, while subletting seems like a straightforward, congenial opportunity between tenant and subletter, unfortunately not all buildings — co-op, condo or rental—are so amenable, or look kindly upon long-term guests and sublets. To fully understand the dynamic however, it’s important to first differentiate between a guest and a sub-tenant.