The finer points of rerenting your apartment

Three procedures exist for re-renting your apartment. They are novation, assignment, and sublet. The method that your landlord is willing to accept will determine the method you choose.

Novation is a release and surrender agreement between the landlord, the original tenant, and the new tenant. In novation, the original lease is ended by agreement with the landlord, thus freeing the original tenant from further contractual obligations. A new lease is drawn between the new tenant and landlord, and the new tenant pays rent directly to the landlord. Although not required by law, some landlords request payment of a fee in return for novation. The charge may vary from a few dollars to more than $100. Because the original tenant is free from the contract, any security deposit must be returned according to provisions set forth by Massachusetts law.

The second method of rerenting an apartment is assignment. This is an agreement between the two tenants--new and old--for the remaining term of the lease. The new tenant will pay rent directly to the landlord; however, the landlord can sue either the new tenant or the old one for any unpaid rent. The old tenant can also sue the new tenant if the new tenant does not meet contractual obligations. Because the agreement is made within the context of the original lease, issues relating to damages and the security deposit should be mutually negotiated by the two tenants and the landlord. As with novation, the landlord may request payment of a fee for an assignment.

The third method is a sublease, which is an agreement between two tenants for

1. less than a full term of the lease,

2. less than the full premises, or

3. a different rental rate than that stated in the original lease. In a sublet agreement, the original tenant is responsible to the landlord under the terms of the original lease and can be sued for any unpaid rent or breach of lease by the new tenant. However, the original tenant may in turn sue the new tenant to recover any amount paid to the landlord. The original tenant's security deposit may not be returned until 30 days from the expiration of the lease. Therefore, the new and original tenants should draw up an agreement about damages between themselves. As mentioned previously, the landlord may seek payment of a fee for a sublet. More on subleasing...


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