New York Sublet Laws and Legality Guide

By PropertyClub Team
Jun 7th 2024
In NYC, it's legal to sublet an apartment under specific circumstances. Regular tenants (those who don't benefit from affordable or public housing) must get permission from their landlords or property managers before subletting their apartments. Landlords may have specific criteria that tenants must meet in order to sublet, such as maintaining a good rental history, obtaining proper insurance coverage, or adhering to certain subletting procedures.

If you are a regular tenant and if you have negotiated with your landlord, you can legally rent out your apartment. However, this does not apply to tenants who benefit from subsidies (i.e., FEPS, SCRIE, or DRIE, etc.) or live in HUD, Section 8, and non-profit buldings. Tenants in income-restricted apartments or subsidized housing projects are typically not allowed to sublet. 

Additionally, tenants who live in condos, co-ops, and rent-controlled apartments are far more restricted than regular tenants and should check their building's By-Laws and consult their property manager. Read on to find out if you can legally sublet your apartment.

hash-markDo I Have a Legal Right to Sublet My Apartment?

Yes, subletting is legal in NYC. According to New York State law, most tenants have the legal right to sublet their apartments. However, you still have to ask your landlord for permission to sublet your apartment. 

The first thing you should do is to notify your landlord of your desire to sublet, as they will likely have a procedure in place. In the event they don’t, the more formal process set in place by NY State requires that you send a written request via certified mail, with a return receipt requested directly to your landlord. Included in your written request should be all the information about your proposed subtenant and any other details about the arrangement, including:

  • The length of the sublease;
  • The name and address of the subtenant;
  • Your reason for requesting a sublease;
  • The amount of rent your subtenant will pay you;
  • An outline of the security deposit agreement you and your subtenant have negotiated and
  • A copy of the proposed sublease agreement. 

Should your landlord deny your request, state laws require him/her to provide you with a reasonable explanation for why your sublet request was rejected (e.g., your proposed sublet has poor credit or not enough income). Your landlord only has 30 days to approve or deny your proposed sublet. If the landlord does not respond, that is viewed as an approval.

hash-mark Who Can’t Sublet Their NYC Apartments?

Unless you fall into one of the following categories, you probably have the right to sublet your apartment.

  • Public housing residents & Rent Subsidies: HUD and Section 8 tenants do not have the right to sublet. Additionally, tenants who receive rent subsidies (i.e., FEPS, SCRIE, or DRIE, etc.) generally don’t have the right to sublet either.
  • Non-profit buildings: Under program guidelines, tenants in non-profit housing may be prohibited from subletting.
  • Co-ops: Tenants in coop (and condo) apartments must check their building’s by-laws and their proprietary lease to ascertain whether they have a right to sublet their apartments. The only exception to this rule is if you are a rent-stabilized and rent-controlled tenant who resides in a co-op building, then as a rent-regulated tenant, you still retain your right to sublet, regardless of the coop’s or condo’s By-laws.
  • Rent controlled: These tenants cannot sublet their apartments unless they have a prior lease containing a clause that permits them to sublet.

hash-markWhat Are the Requirements to Sublet Rent-stabilized Apartments?

As a rent-stabilized tenant, you have additional rules to follow:

There is a limit on how much you can charge. You can only charge your legal rent to the subletter, that is unless you are subletting a furnished apartment. In that event, you can charge a 10% surcharge. If you overcharge your subtenant, they can sue you for the overcharge amount as well as for treble damages.  

The apartment must be your primary residence. Although you are subletting, the apartment must still be your primary residence. In other words, you must intend to return to your apartment after the sublease ends.  If for any reason, you fail to maintain the apartment as your primary residence during the duration of your sublease, you risk your landlord commencing a nonprimary residence holdover proceeding. (i.e., a housing court proceeding where the landlord will try to evict you from your apartment because it is not your primary residence).

You can only sublet for two years. The rent-stabilization law limits your sublet to two years, including the term of the proposed sublease, out of the four years preceding the termination date of the proposed sublease.

Subletters can’t automatically take over a lease

No provision allows subletters to automatically take over your apartment and lease if the tenant of record decides to move out. Basically, the landlord has to approve any transfers or new leases. 

hash-markCan I list My Apartment on Airbnb?

No, unless you are offering the sublet for a minimum of 30 consecutive days. The use of the Multiple Dwelling Buildings for short stay rentals and/or transient use violates §4.8a of the New York State Multiple Dwelling Law, §27-2004.a.8(a) of the New York City Housing Maintenance Code, and §310.1.2 of the New York City Building Code.

Specifically, New York State’s 2011 multiple dwelling laws make short-term rentals of less than 30 days illegal in Class A buildings. Therefore, by law, renting your apartment for less than 30 days is not considered a sublet in New York City, and it’s illegal.

Can I Rent a Room in My Apartment on Airbnb?

Yes, you can rent out a room within your apartment if you will be living in the apartment the entire time. The Airbnb laws do not control this arrangement. If done correctly, you can generally rent out a room in your apartment on Airbnb. The key point here is that you would still inhabit the apartment.

hash-markConsequences for Illegally Subletting a NYC apartment

If you are caught renting your apartment for less than 30 days, you could be fined up to $7,500. Additionally, if you are caught renting out a rent-regulated apartment on Airbnb, you can also be evicted by your landlord for profiteering on a rent-regulated apartment as well as illegally using your apartment.

Where Can I List My NYC Sublet?

You can list your NYC sublet on LeaseBreak, Craigslist, and Facebook. When it comes to Facebook, you can list on their marketplace as well as on various sublet-related groups like Ghostlight Housing. These sites have the largest audiences, so they’re the most likely to find a tenant quickly. You can also list on many of the best NYC apartment rental websites as well as dozens of smaller niche sites.

NYC Sublet Laws Bottom Line 

To sublet a room or an apartment, NYC tenants should formally notify their landlords and provide detailed information about the subtenant and the sublease agreement. However, not all tenants have the right to sublet in NYC. Tenants who live in public housing and non-profit buildings are restricted by the law and are not allowed to sublet their apartments.

Additionally, rent-stabilized tenants must follow specific rules, including charging no more than the legal rent and maintaining the apartment as their primary residence. Most importantly, if you are caught illegally renting your apartment, be prepared to be charged a hefty fine of up to $7.500.