Subleasing is perfectly permissible under District law, thus the rental agreement is what matters the most. The terms of the original lease agreement may prohibit subleasing, or require that the tenant secure landlord consent or otherwise restrict the tenant’s ability to sublease.
A tenant who violates the “subleasing” terms of the agreement is subject to a 30-day notice to “cure or vacate.” This means that if the tenant fails to cure the violation within 30 days of the notice, the landlord may file an eviction action against the tenant at D.C. Superior Court’s Landlord and Tenant Branch. The tenant may avoid eviction by timely “curing” the violation, but either way the subtenant will be removed from the rental unit.
If the unit is under rent control, District law prohibits the tenant from charging the subtenant any more rent than the tenant is charged by the landlord. Regardless of the unit’s rent control status, the sublease agreement should clearly state how any rent increase will be implemented. Many sublease agreements contain a “pass-through” clause, under which any rent increase the landlord imposes on the tenant is automatically passed onto the subtenant. If the agreement contains no such clause, the prospective subtenant should seek clarification before signing it.
Lawful subtenants in the District enjoy virtually all of the rights of tenancy that the tenant enjoys. The original tenant assumes the role of the subtenant’s landlord in many respects, including providing timely rent increase notices and handling any security deposit. The landlord must continue to perform all duties owed to the tenant — whether under the original lease or District law — including maintaining the premises in compliance with the housing code.
To best protect yourself, make sure the sublease agreement clearly states the amount and due date of the rent; the amount of the security deposit; who is responsible for paying the utilities; the dates that the agreement begins and ends; and any conditions of care and use of the rental unit. To help ensure the full return of your security deposit, be sure to document the condition of the unit and any possessions left by the original tenant.
This column is for informational purposes only. Contact the D.C. Office of the Tenant Advocate if you have any questions about a specific dispute with your landlord.
Have a question for the advocate? Send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you may see it answered in an upcoming Ready to Rent.