Taking over a sublet: some Qs and As

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to post: in my alter ego as a mystery author, I have a new book coming out and the launch, which also involves the launch of an art exhibition inspired by the book has taken up some time. I also write a new column for REM Magazine on real estate bloopers, so the blog has been left somewhat behind.

But since my new book will be out on Tuesday, I have a little free time to discuss a topic that recently came up with a friend’s daughter, who is looking to rent a condo unit.

The property she is looking at has a tenant leaving early, which raised a series of questions. Here they are:

Q is the lease term the three months left on the lease, or something else?

A. The lease term is what’s left on the lease, i.e. the three months. It’s not actually a sublet since the original tenant won’t be returning, but an assignment of lease. The original tenant steps out and the new tenant steps in, subject to all the same rights and responsibilities.

Q: What happens at the end of three months?

A. The lease may be for three months but it will convert to a month to month tenancy when that term expires unless notice of termination is given beforehand by either the landlord or the new tenant. That notice has to be given 60 days ahead of time and it can’t be mid-month; it has to be given, in writing, on the last day of the relevant month.

Q. Can the landlord refuse to sublet and insist my daughter sign a longer lease?

A. Yes. The landlord’s consent is required for any sublet or assignment of lease. The landlord, after all, is being asked to take on a new tenant. This one is tricky because three months isn’t very long. The landlord’s consent is not to be unreasonably withheld, which means they can’t just say no arbitrarily. But if the landlord thinks he or she can get a long term tenant more easily with less wear-and-tear than a 90 day tenant, it might not be unreasonable for them to refuse to agree to a three month assignment of the lease.

Q. Can the landlord terminate before the three months is up?

A. Yes. The landlord would have to give the same notice I referred to, ie 60 days running from the last day of the second month before the current lease expires. Once either party gives notice, the landlord is free to let other prospective renters view the unit on 24 hours written notice.

Q. Will the landlord do a credit check?

He or she should, and also contact prior references, obtain proof of employment and check out your daughter’s rental history.

Q.  Can my daughter ask the landlord for a longer term lease and that the existing tenant’s lease be terminated early?

A.  Yes. The parties can agree to whatever contractual terms they like, so long as these do not conflict with the terms of the Residential Tenancies Act of Ontario.

Q. The current tenant is paying less rent than the ad asks for. Can my daughter negotiate a lower rent for a longer lease ?

A.  Yes. Her offer to lease should set out what rent she would like to pay. Like any other negotiation, the landlord may counter at a higher rent. But in a tough rental market like the one in Ottawa right now, most landlords will reduce the rent if they find a good tenant. And in this case, with a new tenant moving in right away, the landlord doesn’t have to worry about carrying a vacant unit. So definitely worth a try.

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