Should You Sublet Your Student Rental? Pros and Cons

From our collaborators at Zoocasa.

Being a student comes with a lot of choices. Should you spring for the all-you-can-eat meal plan or do a la carte? Should you study philosophy or business? Should you order a creamy Belgian pint or a local IPA? Tough calls.

Another scenario you’re probably facing as a student is if you should give up your school year lease for the summer or find a sublet.

There are around 600,000 college and university students going back to school this fall, and most of them require housing for at least eight months. If you are studying at university away from home, as many Canadians do, you probably have rented a place off-campus after spending your first year at a dorm.

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Eight-Month Leases are Hard to Find

While years ago landlords were more inclined to occasionally offer eight-month leases, in today’s tight markets, they’ll usually insist on a full year lease. Real estate has become ever more precious in university towns in Ontario as market values have skyrocketed over the past years.

For example, rental prices for London, Ontario real estate, home to Western University, reached $1,273 for a one-bedroom and $1,562 for a two-bedroom this year, and the vacancy rate dropped to an 18-year low. Or take Hamilton, home to MacMaster university; rental prices houses and Hamilton condos rose 24% year over year, with the average rent now being $1,545.

The problem is even more concentrated in bigger cities. According to the City of Ottawa Rental Market Analysis, the average price of rent for an apartment with three or more bedrooms in the neighbourhood of Alta Vista was $1,884. Downtown, average rent was $2,048, $2,407 in Sandy Hill, and $1,358 in Vanier. Even split with roommates, that can get very expensive, very fast — especially when you’re living off loans instead of a full-time income.

With this kind of demand, landlords will almost certainly insist on a 12-month lease. Of course, since the school year is only eight months long, it begs the question: do you give up your lease or find a subletter for those summer months?

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of keeping your rental unit via a subletter through the summer months.

Should You End Your Tenancy?

Your two options are usually breaking your lease, or finding someone to take over the entire lease. Depending on your province, this may or may not be an easy endeavor; fortunately, Ontario and Quebec have very strong tenant protections.

For example, you can end your tenancy early in Ontario if there is a serious danger to your health or safety, your place is not fit to live in, or your landlord will not stop harassing you.

There’s a few different ways to go about this.

If you explain your situation to the landlord and he agrees then you can move out early, then there’s no problem. Just fill out an Agreement to Terminate a Tenancy (Form N11) for your records.

Assigning Your Tenancy

The second way of breaking your lease is to assign your tenancy to someone else. This is different than a sublet because you’re not simply “lending” someone your place as it were but transferring your lease over. You don’t have the right to move back in, but you are also not responsible for the unit anymore.

 If your landlord refuses to let you assign your lease, or does not answer your request within seven days, you can give your landlord a Tenant’s Notice to Terminate the Tenancy (Form N9). This way you can move out within 30 days.

You can also always take your case to the Landlord and Tenant Board and ask to move out if your landlord is harassing you, refuses to fix serious repair problems, enters your apartment illegally, interferes with the heat, water, electricity, or other utilities, or does other things that make it unpleasant to live in your apartment.

The biggest pro of giving up your school lease early is a financial one. Once you give up your lease you will no longer have to pay rent to your landlord, or be responsible in case your subletter doesn’t work out. The biggest cons are if you like your place and may want to move back in. So if you aren’t sure about your decision, then you may want to consider holding off and simply subletting.

What to Know About Subletting

If you are planning to return to your place the next school year, then subletting is probably right for you. Your subletter is essentially holding your spot in the unit for you. If you found a great unit with reasonable rent and great roommates and you don’t want to give it up, then it’s best to keep your place.

The negative aspect of subletting is that it is vital to pick an excellent sublet tenant, as you’ll still be considered the leaseholder. If the subletter trashes the place or forgets to pay rent, then you’re on the hook for that. That’s a lot of responsibility.

The Process of Finding a Subletter

Subletting is pretty simple in theory but can be hard work. First, you’ll need to find someone who’s interested in your unit. Now, if you’re in a hot market, this probably won’t be so hard, but if your place is far from school then it may be difficult. Remember: there are thousands of other students also wanting to sublet their place during the summer.

You can find someone to sublet by posting on social media, message boards, online classifieds ads and word of mouth.

The good news is, once you find someone, your landlord can’t say no for arbitrary reasons, and they cannot discriminate against any person you choose based on race, religion, colour, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, being on social assistance, or having children. They can refuse them, however, for something like a low credit score. They also cannot charge a sublet fee that’s more than they had to spend on things like advertising and credit checks. At the same time, you cannot charge the subletter more than what you’re paying for rent.

If your landlord simply refuses to allow you to sublet your room to anyone, then you’re able to end your tenancy in 30 days instead of 60 days.

Ultimately, the question between ending your lease and subletting comes down to whether you want to move next September. If you know for sure that your current abode isn’t right for you, then perhaps it’s better to end your lease. If, however, you think that you may want to return, then perhaps putting the work in to find a subletter will pay dividends.

About Zoocasa

Zoocasa is a full-service brokerage that offers advanced online search tools to empower Canadians with the data and expertise they need to make more successful real estate decisions. View real estate listings at zoocasa.com or download our free iOS app.

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