As school year ends, students in Westwood navigate subletting policies
An illustration depicts monopoly houses scattered over a map of Westwood. Often, subleasing occurs because students want to make money from their apartment while traveling over the summer. (Isabella Lee/Illustrations Director)
Subleasing is popular among students leaving Westwood for the summer, but some have said they find challenges in doing so.
Rather than paying rent for a vacant room when going home for the summer, students often look for other students to sublet their apartment spaces. Some students said that subletting allows them to save a portion of their rental expenses and alleviates the inconvenience of maintaining a lease while being elsewhere.
Sienna Janes, a second-year public affairs and sociology student, said she is subletting her apartment because she wants to avoid wasting money on rent when she won’t be in the area.
“If you’re able to (sublet), you absolutely should,” Janes said. “It seems a little ridiculous to me to let a lease that you’re not using waste away.”
However, others – including landlords – cited its challenges, including restrictions and the need for proactive advertising.
While tenants are legally allowed to sublet a property in California, landlords can restrict them from doing so, according to California civil code.
Janes said her apartment lease allows subletting as long as one of the tenants lives in the unit at the same time, which made subletting over the summer difficult when all of her roommates planned on leaving Westwood.
“Last year was a little more tricky – all three of my roommates were gone for summer, and we still wanted to find subletters, but my landlord constantly visited. She was really upset with us for doing that,” she said.
Janes said she also felt her landlord treated her subletters unfairly, including forbidding overnight guests and group gatherings for the subletters despite allowing the regular tenants to do so.
“The amount of times that my landlord stopped by unannounced was also really unfair and kind of bizarre,” Janes said. “We just did everything that we could to avoid anything like that.”
Alexander Swerdlow, a fourth-year computer science student, said he is subleasing his apartment because he has a few months left on his lease following his graduation, but will be moving to Pittsburgh for graduate school during the summer. He added that he posted in several Facebook groups in his search for a subletter in addition to his roommates contacting their friends.
“We probably could find someone,” Swerdlow said. “But if not, then I would have to pay the full amount – which would be a lot.”
Giovanni Jimenez, a fourth-year psychobiology student, said finding someone to sublet was stressful because he didn’t want to pay out of pocket for the remainder of his lease. He added that he would advise people who are looking to sublet to advertise early, as it would allow for a greater audience to select people from.
“You don’t want to go through the stress of, ‘Oh, man, I’m going to have to pay four grand in the next few months,’” Jimenez said. “Do it a lot sooner – you don’t have to worry about that.”
One third-year political science student, who asked to remain anonymous out of concern for retribution from his landlord, said although his apartment does not permit subletting, he had a friend sublet a space in the apartment while he was abroad for fall quarter, hoping that the subletting would go unnoticed.
He added that he was not sure what the penalty was for subletting, but that other people in his building have also sublet their units before.
Some apartments in Westwood also choose to not allow subleasing and instead opt to allow tenants to participate in lease takeovers. In contrast to a sublet, in a lease takeover the previous tenant is no longer responsible for any part of the lease, including the payment, said Erika Burrell, the property manager for the Village Lofts apartment community in Westwood.
Burrell added that the process involves taking the original tenant off the lease and adding a new person in an online application process. She said she previously worked at another student housing building that permitted subleasing and thinks lease takeovers are a better option.
“We did encounter some issues with subleasing and people not wanting to pay and the previous person still being responsible, so I think doing the lease takeover is way easier than subleasing,” Burrell said.