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Subletting versus assigning a lease

You've landed a great job out of town for the summer and you're not sure what to do with your apartment. Do you find someone to sublet or do you assign the lease to a new tenant? You'll first need to talk to your landlord.

Under most provincial and territorial tenancy agreements, usually known as the Residential Tenants Act, the landlord must be contacted if the person responsible for the lease wants to opt out for a period of time before it expires. If you think you might want to move back to your apartment before the lease is up, one option is to sublet your unit.

How subletting works
According to the B.C. government website section regarding tenants' rights and responsibilities, "A sublease conveys part of the tenant's rights to a third party. For example, the sublease may be for a rental period that is shorter than the original period. The sub-tenant receives only the rights contained in the sublease. The original tenant remains the tenant of the original landlord."

It's important to find a reliable tenant because you're still on the hook for the rent, so make sure you get everything in writing. It may even be a good idea to have a lawyer draw up the sublease agreement.

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George Brown, a paralegal professional with the George Brown Professional Corporation in Toronto, says that if the landlord fails to consent to the sublease then the tenant may decide to terminate the lease, or follow an appeals process: "It can get complicated under the provincial statutes, so it is a good idea to get some legal advice, because you want to make sure you get it right."

Assigning has its advantages
What if the new job might be more long term? Then you may want to assign the lease, rather than sublet, which means that the new tenant takes over the lease permanently and all the terms of the original rental agreement stay the same, including rent and services.

With a sublet, the person taking over the rental unit pays the original tenant, who pays the landlord. Assigning the lease means the new tenant is responsible not only for paying the rent directly, but also for the overall condition of the housing.

However, if you rent on a month-to-month basis then neither subletting nor assigning your lease is an option, says Brown, meaning you'll have to move out of your apartment to take that job, no matter how long it's for -- unless you "can maintain a substantial connection with the rental premises (i.e. hydro, furniture, mail, etc.), which would prove that they were still the tenant." This also means you may be stuck paying two rents.

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-- Posted June 29, 2012
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