A reader who plans to sublet a flat wants to know what conditions she should put in place contractually to pre-empt any problems that might arise with a landlord or flatmate.
She wants to move from her parents’ home into a flat, but her budget is limited and she has made the decision to take a bigger flat which she could possibly sublet.
As subletting accommodation can potentially result in problems, the reader is keen to either avoid these or provide a mechanism to deal with any that may occur.
See the reader’s question here.
If a flat for rent has been identified, establishing the landlord’s requirements in respect of the rental would be a useful starting point.
He may, for example, insist on a single person being the contractual tenant with additional flatmates subletting from that person, whether on a formal or informal basis.
For instance, if a flatmate is late with his portion of the rent, the reader remains liable to the landlord for the full obligations under the lease.
The intended term of the lease may also be a factor to consider.
The risk to the reader could be viewed as being considerably lower where the lease runs for a shorter period.
A flatmate defaulting or vacating unexpectedly could wreak havoc over a long-term lease, especially if a suitable replacement can’t be found, as the reader would remain liable to the landlord for the extended period.
One way in which the reader could try to limit her exposure to risk is by formally concluding an agreement of subletting with the flatmate.
Such an agreement typically takes a similar format to that of the main lease and provisions that are relevant in the main lease should carry over to the sublease.
A written agreement allows for certainty as to the rights and obligations applicable to the relationship.
This is despite it being quite tempting to keep the relationship simpler and more casual, particularly where the flatmate is a friend or acquaintance.
The term of the sublease should, for example, run concurrently with or be shorter than the term of the main lease.
A defaulting flatmate, however, can still cause considerable problems as the reader would have to take the necessary steps under the sublease in enforcing any rights or obligations.
The non-payment of rental might trigger the applicable contractual provisions in the lease relating to breach and our reader may find herself having to take legal steps to enforce payment to evict the defaulting flatmate.
In addition to the necessary contractual provisions, it is useful to include practical stipulations.
These would address general house rules regulating the living arrangements, use of certain areas or rooms, responsibilities for cleaning, shared shopping and food expenses.
It is best to have such arrangements recorded upfront to avoid issues going forward.
Such matters can be contractualised to allow for a remedy in the event of a possibly well-meaning but constantly defaulting flatmate.
If a flatmate wants to leave during the period of a sublease or where the flatmate is a co-tenant, a new flatmate could be substituted by way of a cession and assignment of the agreement in question.
The new flatmate then steps into the shoes of the departing flatmate.
Sharing a living space can be quite stressful and communication between our reader and her flatmate is very important.
Dealing with issues in a swift, sensible and adult manner may be key in determining whether this is a good experience or one fraught with legal wrangling or concerns over paying the next month’s rental.
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