How to Conduct a Sublet Eviction

This guide clarifies the differences between an approved subtenant with legal rights and an illegal occupant who essentially has no rights as an unauthorized person. Understand the consequences of allowing such illegal subtenants into the property you're renting and the proper steps you must take to remove them while protecting your own tenancy.

Nichole Stohler
Last Updated
May 10, 2024
How to Conduct a Sublet Eviction

As a renter, you may find yourself in a situation where you've sublet your rental property to someone without the landlord's approval. While subletting can be legal with proper consent, an unauthorized sublease violates the terms of your lease agreement and puts you at risk of consequences.

This guide clarifies the differences between an approved subtenant and an illegal occupant and outlines the steps you must take to legally remove an unauthorized person from the property you're renting.

We'll look at the key differences between approved subtenants and illegal occupants, their respective rights, and the proper steps you can take to legally remove an unauthorized person from the property. From understanding lease violations to following local rental laws, learn how to handle this issue properly while protecting your tenancy.

What is a sublease?

A sublease is a contractual agreement in which a tenant, also known as the sublessor, rents out all or part of their rented property to a new tenant, known as the sublessee or subtenant. The original tenant is still responsible for paying rent to the landlord, while the subtenant pays rent to the original tenant.

What is considered an unauthorized sublease agreement?

An unauthorized sublease agreement occurs when a tenant sublets or re-rents the rental property to another person without the landlord's prior written consent. Most leases prohibit this, and it's considered a breach of contract. Consequences can include eviction, financial penalties, liability issues if the sublessee causes damages, and keeping the tenant's security deposit.

Even if a lease permits subleasing, a proposed sublease may still be rejected depending on the original lease terms and local landlord-tenant laws. Some laws limit the reasons a landlord can deny a sublease request. However, in general, landlords have the right to reject sublessees based on valid concerns like inability to pay rent, background issues, or intended use of the property that violates the lease.

Tenants should review their lease and obtain the landlord's written approval before subletting. Unauthorized subletting breaches the contract and raises issues around tenant screening, insurance, and property management.

How unauthorized occupants' and subtenants' rights differ

An unauthorized occupant has no legal rights or protections as a tenant — they are essentially trespassing without the landlord's consent. The landlord has no obligation to maintain the property for their benefit or follow legal eviction processes against them.

A subtenant, on the other hand, has the same legal rights as the original tenant who is renting from the landlord, including basic renter protections under state or local laws. Although the landlord does not have a direct agreement with the subtenant, they are still responsible for maintaining the rental property in livable condition. The landlord cannot evict a subtenant without following the proper legal process, verifying that subtenants are afforded the same legal protections as any other tenant.

Can a subtenant become a tenant?

In most cases, a subtenant cannot automatically become the main tenant without the landlord's approval. This is because the subtenant's arrangement is with the original tenant and not directly with the landlord. Because the subtenant doesn't have their own contract with the landlord, their rights are limited to what's already agreed upon in the original tenant's lease.

The tenant's responsibilities when subletting

When you decide to sublet your rental to someone else, you're taking on the role of a landlord. As the master tenant, you have to handle some landlord-like tasks and duties for your subtenant, such as:

  1. Keeping the property in good shape: It's your job to make sure that the rental unit stays in good condition for your subtenant, just as your landlord has to maintain it for you. Fix any repair issues and check the utilities to see if they are working properly.
  2. Making a sublease agreement: Create a formal sublease contract that outlines the rules, rent amount, and security deposit.
  3. Collecting rent and deposit: You'll need to collect rent and a security deposit from your subtenant each month or pay period.
  4. Dealing with subtenant issues: If your subtenant has any problems or complaints, you're responsible for resolving them promptly.
  5. Being the middle person: Your landlord may prefer to deal only with you directly, not your subtenant. In that case, you'll need to act as the messenger between your landlord and subtenant.

Can a tenant evict a subtenant?

As the original tenant renting to someone else, you can't kick out your subtenant just because you feel like it. You must have valid and legal reasons for eviction. Acceptable reasons to evict a subtenant include:

  • Non-payment of rent: When a subtenant doesn't pay rent on time as agreed to in the sublease agreement, you have the right to evict them.
  • Lease violations: The sublease likely has rules that the subtenant must follow, like keeping noise down, following pet policies, or not damaging the property. If they keep breaking these rules after multiple warnings, you can evict them for violating the agreement.
  • Illegal activities: If a subtenant is doing something illegal, like selling drugs or engaging in criminal behavior that puts others at risk, you can evict them.
  • Termination of your lease: If your original lease with the landlord ends for any reason, such as the landlord not renewing it or selling the property, you have to move out. In this case, you also need to evict your subtenant.

However, evictions under certain circumstances are illegal, such as the following:

  • Retaliation: You can't evict a subtenant just because they complained about something or reported you for an issue.
  • Discrimination: It's against fair housing laws to evict someone based on factors like race, gender, religion, family status, or other protected characteristics.

How to evict a subtenant

If you decide to evict a subtenant, here are the steps that you can take:

  1. Talk to them: Before taking any legal action, it's better to have a respectful conversation with the subtenant. Explain the situation clearly and calmly and request that they need to vacate the premises voluntarily within a reasonable timeframe.
    Sometimes, a conversation can resolve the issue without having to take further action. Remember to document this conversation in case you need to provide evidence later.
  2. Check the lease: Review the original lease agreement. Look for any clauses or provisions regarding subletting, unauthorized occupants, and the eviction procedures outlined in the contract. Understand the specific terms and conditions to make sure that you evict them within the guidelines set by your state and local laws.
  3. Give written notice: If the subtenant refuses to leave voluntarily after the initial conversation, you must give them a written notice to vacate the premises. This notice should state the reason for eviction and the date by which they must vacate. Include any other important details based on the state or local law in your area about evictions.
  4. File an eviction lawsuit: If the subtenant still doesn't leave after getting the notice, you can file an eviction lawsuit in court. The eviction proceedings include gathering and presenting evidence, such as the lease agreement, written notices, and any documentation about the unauthorized subletting situation.
    You may need to attend court hearings and follow the rulings issued by the judge. If the court rules in your favor, law enforcement authorities are authorized to remove the subtenant from the property.

Sublet eviction: Handle with care

Allowing an unauthorized person to sublet from you violates your lease and puts your tenancy at risk. The potential consequences, from property damage to legal issues with your landlord, are not worth ignoring this situation.

While handling an illegal subtenant is difficult, acting decisively through the proper legal channels is key. Consult with experts to understand your local rental laws and eviction processes, and document everything properly. A lawful approach to removing the unauthorized occupant protects the rights of both the tenant on the original lease and the landlord.

This isn't an easy situation, but being proactive about evicting illegal subtenants the right way can save you from bigger headaches down the line. Don't let an unauthorized sublet jeopardize your living situation — take the necessary steps to uphold your lease agreement.

Illegal sublet eviction FAQs

What happens if you illegally sublet in NYC?

If you illegally sublet your apartment in New York City, breaking the terms of your lease agreement, you could face consequences such as fines or even eviction.

How do you evict a subtenant in California?

In California, the landlord must serve a proper eviction notice and follow the legal eviction process to remove a subtenant. This usually involves providing written notice and allowing the subtenant to respond or vacate the premises within a specified timeframe.

Is subletting legal in NJ?

Subletting is legal in New Jersey, but there may be restrictions or requirements outlined in the original lease or rental agreement. To avoid possible legal issues, check the lease and get the landlord's permission before subletting.

Important Note: This post is for informational and educational purposes only. It should not be taken as legal, accounting, or tax advice, nor should it be used as a substitute for such services. Always consult your own legal, accounting, or tax counsel before taking any action based on this information.

Nichole Stohler

Nichole co-founded Gateway Private Equity Group, with a history of investments in single-family and multi-family properties, and now a specialization in hotel real estate investments. She is also the creator of, a blog dedicated to real estate investing.

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