Anyone who has been in this fair city long enough has probably been in the situation where rent control is spooning you very nicely, but need to leave town for a month or more whether it be business, pleasure, or just checking out an animist cult in Nevada City. The question arises: Do you sublet or do you swallow? I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve never been in a situation where paying several months of rent is something I could kick back without thinking about.
As to why I’m writing about this here, the TenderNob/Upper Loin area is quite desirable to sublettors due to Downtown and transportation proximity. So here, I present to you, something of a tossed together set of guidelines (based on personal experience) to subletting in San Francisco that you may or may not want to prepare a grain of salt to take with.
1. It’s probably not allowed
If you look at your rental agreement, it will most likely say that you can’t sublet. Basically every agreement in the city will have this clause and even if you own your place, your Homeowner’s Association might not even allow it. For rentals, it’s there so that the owner doesn’t get hosed by rent control with people passing on the apartment for decades. If you move out, then they can raise the rent and they like that. So, as to the severity of this clause, you have to balance out the fact that subletting could indeed get you evicted or, if done properly, no one will really care as long as the person you sublet to doesn’t stay around/cause problems and the rent keeps getting paid.
2. Don’t ask but do tell your building manager
If you have a building manager and depending upon their inherent “cool factor” you probably want to tell them that you’re going to be out of town for a bit and that a “friend will be staying in your place”. Saying that you’re outright subletting isn’t anything that they want to hear as it will get their ass boiled with the building owner were things to go south and if you were to ask your building manager directly, they’d have to tell you that no, you can’t sublet if #1 is the case.
3. Do not sublet to musicians
It doesn’t matter if they’re the new James Taylor, new James Hetfield, or classical musicians. They are not to be trusted and more than likely, they’ll practice at your pad even if they say that they won’t because rehearsal space is a fortune in this town. Renting to musicians is like playing spin the bottle with a whole bunch of ugly girls–you can’t help but be the loser.
4. Do not sublet to anyone under 26
Yeah, I sound like I’m shaking my cane at those “infernal troublemakers”, but really, SF has a pretty happening scene and no end of youngsters want to come, enjoy it, and “experiment” (screw a lot and get high.) If in doubt, check out your potential sublettor on Facebook. If they’re in Australia currently and their profile photo is them drunk, avoid. If they’re under the age of 26 and have no Facebook profile, be absofuckingly afraid of whomever this tinfoil-hat-wearing weirdo is.
5. To store or not to store
So what about your stuff? Do you leave it or store it? That’s a personal decision. Most likely there won’t be any problems as you’re choosing someone to entrust your place with. At the same time, storing items that have personal value might be a good idea as you could easily find some miscreant who sublets from you and steals a whole pile of your stuff because he’s deranged and/or a musician.
6. Couples are the bestest
If you can get a couple to stay at your place, you’re better off. They tend to balance each other out in that if one is sloppy, the other is clean and if one is bad about bills, the other is on the ball. That and the fact that thinking of other people having sex in your bed isn’t the most appealing thing in the world. But really, it’s going to happen whether you like it or not and when it does, wouldn’t it be better to have it be the same two people as opposed to a random train of strangers (#4 comes up again)? Also, be willing to have gay couples. Despite all the openness about gay culture in the US, they still have to deal with a lot of crap growing up and on some level, they’ll often have more respect for your place, especially if an older couple.
7. Pay bills online, but not in advance
Thankfully we live in an era where we can pay just about all our bills online. Make sure to sign up for this as sublettors really don’t want to deal with mailing in your checks and might even flake. Also on that note, set out rent checks for the future and leave them with a neighbor or relative you can trust to mail them in. Given that if #1 is the case, you’ll need to somehow present the illusion that you’re actually still there.
8. Sublettors move shit
It appears that humans always want to put their stamp on their place of habitation. Even if your place is laid out perfectly and dry heaves of feng shui, they’ll still move things. This isn’t a big deal as long as they move them back when they leave. Just be prepared for things to be a bit “off” when you get back.
9. Beware the mid-sublet entry
Your place is going to look weird if for some reason you need to go in to it before the end of the sublet. Try and avoid this because you most likely won’t be happy with what you see. As mentioned in #8, furniture will be moved. Also, your personal smells will be replaced with the personal smells of others and it will be disorienting. In other words, be prepared for your home not to seem like your home.
10. Get paid up front
Get a security deposit of some kind and if the sublet is less than three months, insist on all of it up front. Yeah, that may mean a large cash outlay, but if someone can’t afford that, then you don’t want them because really, if they were to outright rent a place, they’d be paying about this much as well (deposit+first+last). Anyone who wants to haggle on the deposit or the up front rent should be told to take a hike. If it’s longer than three months, you’ll most likely need to take some form of monthly payment, which is tricky. See if you can get them to send postdated checks to someone you can trust to deposit them in the bank each month.
11. Contract it up
Things can go bad in sublets and even if your lease doesn’t allow you to sublet, make sure you have a written, signed agreement with the sublettors stating what is covered in the sublet rent, how the premises should be returned to you (ie in the same condition as rented), how much they’re to pay, and specifically as to when the sublet begins and ends. Whether or not this will hold up in court if things go really badly, it defines some actual boundaries and if for some insane reason you rent to someone younger, make sure a parent or someone else cosigns in order to cover full liability on your place. Because you can end up with this when you rent to single, young musicians: