Subletting a viable option for students in summer

In April, Kaylie Springer, a self-proclaimed travel junkie, discovered that she had landed the internship of her dreams in Berlin for the summer through Pitt’s College of Business Administration’s International Internship Program.

But, before the senior English writing and political science major could begin practicing her “hallo, guten morgen,” Springer had to unburden herself of the remaining months left on her South Oakland apartment’s lease.

Thus, Springer began the search for a subletter.

When someone sublets, he or she leases a property from a landlord or a realtor and then leases it to another person — the subletter. This is also called subleasing.

Subletting is a common practice among college students who live near campus during the school year but then  move away once summer begins. Pitt’s Department of Off-Campus Living even offers an online service in which students can list the apartment or house they are looking to sublease. There are currently 256 listings on the website, with properties in Oakland and other surrounding neighborhoods. 

Springer originally found her subletter through a mutual organization at Pitt, but found herself searching once again.

“When the first person I thought was subletting from me bailed at the last minute, it was a huge headache. I had two days to find someone before leaving the country,” Springer said.

But things worked out. Springer listed her apartment on Craigslist and was able to find a subletter, saving herself the nearly $2,000 in rental costs she would’ve had to pay had she not subleased.

While some students like Springer need to leave Pittsburgh for the summer, others need a place to stay. Pitt students Liz Sadoski, Autumn Puhac, Alex Sieman and David DeLeon all subleased this summer and said they had positive experiences.

This was DeLeon’s second consecutive year subletting. The junior urban studies and political science major is currently subletting in North Oakland.

The first year, DeLeon said, he ran into trouble when his sublease was up before he was able to move into his university housing. The future tenants of the apartment had agreed to allow him to stay an additional week but then changed their minds at the last second, forcing DeLeon to relocate and stay with friends in Shadyside until University buildings opened for the year.

“While my experiences haven’t been 100-percent smooth, I’ve been lucky to have landlords [or] companies that were not the nightmares that I hear people have dealt with,” DeLeon said in a message via Facebook. “I honestly think anytime you do sublet, you are taking a risk as the actual tenant. But as the subtenant, your experience is going to depend on the landlord, so it’s hit or miss.”

DeLeon’s landlord at his first sublet required him to sign a subletting contract and leave a security deposit.

This is a fairly common practice because though the original tenant of a property temporarily leaves the premises, he or she is still responsible to the landlord for anything that might happen while the subtenant is living in the house and is also held responsible if the subletter neglects to pay the rent or utilities.

While Springer’s landlord did not require her and her subletter to sign a contract or leave a deposit, the two did so on their own. Springer had a lawyer, who was also the father of one of her friends, create a contract, and she advised others looking to sublet his or her properties to sign similar contracts and require the subletter to leave a deposit.

“Nearly everyone is willing to do so, and it helps avoid problems if the subletter pays you late or damages the apartment,” Springer said.

In the state of Pennsylvania, a landlord has the right not to allow a tenant to sublease, and Joel Owens, a representative of Oak Hill Apartments, said subletting is against the company’s policy and always has been, but did not elaborate on the company’s reasoning. 

Bruce Berman, a private landlord who offers student housing in Highland Park, said that he “generally frown[s] on subletting because you lose control of responsibilities.” 

Berman is wary of subletting, especially after seeing his relatives have problems with it, but still allows his tenants to sublet after going through all of the procedures the original lessee completed.

But not every subletter will have to interact with the landlord.

Sieman said a realty company handled the subleasing process for him and Puhac, while Sadoski said they haven’t had to interact with anyone but the original tenants.

The original tenant of the apartment from which Sadoski is subletting is a former high school classmate, which she said made the experience more manageable.

“It’s less awkward for sure, and it’s nice to just be able to text the [lessee] with any questions that I have about the place,” she said in an email. “I just feel comfortable, and it’s also a trust thing too. It’s a person that you know isn’t likely to lead you astray.”

With their subleases ending in August, Sadoski and Puhac have had the time to develop their own advice on subletting.

Sadoski said to start early if you want a lot of options but added that “the later you start, the more negotiable people get with the price. I did find a place that was $200 [a month], but it was unfurnished, and that wasn’t what I needed.”

Puhac is living with two roommates whom she had never met before. She urged others to focus on the people who might share your temporary living space.

“Make sure you are comfortable living where you are subletting,” Puhac said in an email. She added, “Don’t be afraid to live with people you don’t know. You may end up making friendships that will last a lifetime.”

Like Puhac, Sadoski is also living with roommates she had not met, but she used a familiar analogy to describe subletting.

“It’s kind of like the first year of college— trying to not [impose] on other people’s spaces and still trying to make sure you pay for toilet paper,” she said.