Dear PoPville – Subletting Issue

“Dear PoPville,

A friend of mine recently moved into an apartment. It’s a two bedroom and the other tenant had already been living there (not the owner). They are supposedly splitting the rent down the middle. The lease stated that there is a storage unit and a parking spot included as part of the lease. My friend was recently made aware that the other tenant has been renting out the parking spot (and likely the storage unit). My friend was surprised by this, and also how it implies that the other tenant receives hundreds of dollars income each month (after splitting the monthly rent 50-50), about which the other tenant was never forthright.

The lease agreement states that the rent is a lump sum that’s due to the owner, but does not stating splitting it evenly among the tenants. My friend will obviously discuss splitting this income, but should this fail in a resolution, are there any legal implications?”

33 Comment

  • What’s the deal with people always wondering if the courts can help them in situations like this? For a few hundred bucks?

    What the courts can help you do is waste a ton of time and money to reach an unsatisfactory resolution. Charles Dickens has a great book, “Bleak House,” which tidily summarizes the efficiency of the justice system.

    If your ‘friend’ is in a bad situation, ‘he’ should move.

    • This is what small claims court is for actually…

      • This is what common sense is for.

        I’m having a hard time believing that the new tenant was led to believe that he got a parking spot with his rent. It sounds like the new tenant is just bitter upon realizing that the other guy’s getting a better deal than he is.

        Unless he was promised something he’s not getting, what possible problem is there?

        Do you get upset when you buy a candy bar at the corner store, and then later find out the corner store only paid half what you did? Does that suddenly make it not worth what you paid, while it was before?

        Seriously. Unless there was a bait and switch here, this is just whining.

        • God…reminds me of my amateur days. Instances like these are exactly why subletting should not be allowed. There’s too much potential headache for everyone involved and you end up losing track of who owes what. Also, if something happens in the apartment, who’s security deposit do you deduct from?

          At the end of the day, it pays to have a nice place at market price with strict rules – “x tennant/s” for “y term” unless you give “z notice”, then you move.

          As long as you’re always fair, assertive and screen well, you generally won’t have serious tenant issues in the District.

      • LOL at the notion that it is worth your time to try and navigate DC’s court system to get something like this judged to a satisfactory outcome. Especially when the alternatives of (1) talking about it with the other party like a sensible person, and (2) leaving if you are unable to reach a reasonable accomodation are so straightforward.

  • What kind of apartment – is it in a rental building, or a condo/coop? In our building, there are definitely legal implications if a tenant is renting a parking space to a third party…but more along the lines that it is a violation, not that your friend should be getting half of the income.

    But this arrangement might be allowed in some apartment buildings, or an apartment in a private home … but there are all kinds of liability issues (the person using the parking space has no legal attachment to the apartment, therefore ostensibly could turn around and rent the space again, or escape any responsibility for damage/negligence, etc.

    Does the owner knows what is going on. I doubt that your friend is looking to resolving the matter by “telling” on his/her new roommate, but if the other person is violating any building rules your friend could also be held responsible, regardless of whether or not s/he is in on the deal.

  • If your friend has a lease with the landlord, they’re in a position to do something. It they’re subletting, and they signed a contract with another tenant, there’s nothing they can do.

    • ah

      What does the sublease say? If there’s a written agreement to split things, then there may be a hook. If there’s no agreement, then you can renegotiate. Or just move out if you now think the deal isn’t good when before it seemed fine.

      • Presumably, no one would write a sublease that grants other parties rights to the parking space, if they want to be the only person receiving income from it.

        If the sublease says nothing about the space, there’s no room to negotiate — the OP’s friend can’t do anything.

  • Wait is he subletting or on the lease? If he is subletting too freakin’ bad, he got the benefit of the bargain (i.e. $X for 1/2 of an apartment); however, if he is on the lease, and therefore, responsible to the landlord for 1/2 of the rent of the apartment/storage unit and parking, then your friend should have the benefit of that either through use of the space or 1/2 of the rent on the space. So in long, I agree with Tres.

    • Yeah, the posts immediately above hit the nail on the head: it’s impossible to give any informed advice on OP’s question. The most relevant information is missing. Sublease or lease?

      That said, as in seemingly every one of these situations, the best answer is: read the (sub-?)lease. What that says probably controls.

  • Does your friend have an arrangement directly with the property owner that specifies what he gets, and for how much money? It sounds like he does not. It sounds like the other guy, who was already there, found a new roommate, which is typical.

    The lease doesn’t matter. Your friend’s arrangement is with the existing tenant. He gets whatever he was told he gets for whatever amount of money he was told.

    If there’s other stuff that came with the apartment, so what? You didn’t know about it when you made the deal, why do you care now?

    I have a friend who lives in a group house. She rents out rooms when people leave. She is responsible for the entire rent each month. And she lives practically for free. Is there something wrong with this? Not at all. Each new roommate decides if they are willing to pay $x to live in that room. It doesn’t matter what the whole house costs, they’re just renting a room.

  • If your friend and his/her roommate are both on the lease, and thus both entitled to enjoy the property, then the rommate cannot deprive your friend (by subletting) of common space without his permission. If your friend is okay with allowing another person to use the parking space/storage, then he/she should demand 50% of the rental income. If the roommate will not cooperate–either by refusing to hand over 50% of the rental income or by refusing to end the rental arrangement so that your friend can use the common areas to which he/she is entitled to access–then your friend should consider getting out of the lease (they could take it to small claims court, but who would want to live with the person they are suing?).

  • Most leases in DC do not allow the tennant to sublease.
    Most Condo buildings have a tight policy concerning leasing a unit,where the owner must submit the lease to the board for approval.In my building subleasing is a non starter to begin with.
    Without the owners agreement to sublease,the only leagal issue here is how fast the owner can kick this enterprenurial tenant out.

  • That is one seriously sweet Cougar.

  • You need to confront your roommate and tell him that there’s a new arrangement now, and that you’re now going to get 70% of the income from the subletting of these spaces, or else. There is nothing wrong with trying a little intimidation here, especially if you’re already aware that you’re getting screwed by your roommate.

  • I’m wondering how long before the entrepreneurial roommate shows up on this thread.

  • We were in a situation where our housemate, the leaseholder, was renting out the basement as a daytime office to a chain smoking writer, and the garage as an apartment to a grad student, and expected the other housemate and I to cover 2/3 of the utilities. People like this are arseholes, and your best solution is to move out.

    • The key word in what you wrote is “leaseholder.” Whoever holds the lease gets to make the rules. There is nothing unfair about someone renting a house and subletting rooms at a cost that covers most or all of his or her living expenses – or even at a profit. Arguing to the contrary is like saying that a landlord should only rent property at a rate that just covers the mortgage and insurance. Is it unfair for the leaseholder to get the best bedroom?If you don’t like the deal being offered, don’t live there.

      • janie4

        I think the point was that Local PW and the roommate (not leaseholder) were expected to pay for the utility consumption of the office holder (who was already disturbing them with the smoking) and the garage grad student, while he pocketed the entire rent they paid, which should have covered their share. There’s also an implication that the leaseholder didn’t tell them there were essentially five renters, and not three. Which does have implications for noise and convienance. Local PW, do I have it right?

  • What lease arrangement did you agree to when you moved in? Is this violating your agreement or just pissing you off because you’re not profiting?

  • I’ve never heard of a D.C. lease that allows sublets. Your friend shouldn’t be so quick so accuse people of breaking the rules, since she is probably the rules by living there.

    • Is this a handshake deal? I’m begging to think so. If that’s the case, the OP has very few rights here — let alone any right to a parking space.

      If the lease stipulates no subletting, the tenant who holds the lease can draft a “roommate agreement”, which is another kind of legal document. The OP’s friend should insist on getting something on paper. RAs can be used to delineate use of shared spaces, chores, etc — and most importantly, monthly rent/utilities contribution.

      Regardless, the OP’s bud still has no right to a rent reduction.

  • My advice is to either:
    1) Talk to your roommate like an adult about how to divvy up the additional income going forward,
    2) Ask your roommate to buy the beer/wine for the house, or
    3) move out if neither works and it still bothers you.

    Whatever you do, don’t tie up taxpayer money in this through the courts.

  • Screw the subletting isue: Sweet Car! Maybe POP will consider a car of the day post? Hmmm?

    • Yeah, I have to agree. The car was really what caught my attention.

      That said, you’re probably boned. Just be happy that someone else is getting through, and look to your own situation.

  • Do you think the other tenant used to get 50% of the income from the parking space/storage shed before you, I mean your friend, (you) moved in?

    Since all renters in my bldg rent from individual condo owners, some of us get the same arrangement for less money than others. The people who think they’re getting a shitty deal are bitter. You, I mean your friend, kinda have that tone but I get it. Man up and talk to your roommate (that advice is for your friend, ya know?)

  • Subletting is a bad idea in general. I did it when I moved to DC, and got burned when my roommate decided to use my security deposit to fund her compulsive shopping additction. The landlord would not get involved because he was contractually under no obligation to me.

    Always request that you be put on the lease.

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