(Photo courtesy of Lincoln at Dilworth)


Column: My experience finding an apartment sublet

Jessica Sheng shares the troubles of finding an apartment sublet near UCLA.
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/jessicasheng05/" target="_self">Jessica Sheng</a>

Jessica Sheng

July 1, 2022
Finding a sublease is a great way to rent housing. It is particularly beneficial for short stays in various places, as you can opt for a lease with a shorter term. According to Caretaker.com, it has many benefits compared to renting out an apartment from a landlord its applications are much simpler to deal with: the move-in cost is cheap (only needing a few 100 dollars of down payment as insurance), and it’s a great way to learn more about the neighborhood before committing to a certain place. 

As for me personally, I ended up looking for a sublease around UCLA for my college internship this summer. Because the sublease is an agreement between the original tenant and the other third party, there is a lot more versatility in how things are conducted. There should be no problem with striking a deal with a subletter as long as the interests and timeframes between the two parties match up.

But because this is an informal deal with the original tenant with no knowledge of their background, there is no guarantee that they are trustworthy. Another con to subletting is that you will most likely have roommates, and if you do not have someone to apply for the apartment with, you will likely be stuck with a roommate you do not know.

I was able to apply together with another student who I will be interning with, so I was lucky enough to at least have an idea of who my roommate is.

On the Search for Sublets

Finding a sublet, in my experience, is not easy. According to Apartments.com, finding a short term sublet is much harder than a long term contract, which was exactly what I needed for my 2 month long internship. There are a few general websites that are helpful with finding a sublease: Flip.lease, Sublet.com, Leasebreak.com and Airbnb.com.

However, if you know exactly what you want and what you need, you can look for subleases in more niche communities. As for me, I needed an area right next to UCLA, so I joined a Facebook group, UCLA Housing, Rooms, Apartments, Sublets. 

Within this group, there were both people searching for subleases and people leasing apartments to others. A few of my first efforts were made by reaching out to the people looking for others to lease their apartments to.

Unfortunately, many of them either did not respond or there ended up being conflicts of some form. For example, the distance to the internship site may be too great, people may have already reached out and filled the spots available or my time frame did not match up with the original tenant. In the end, I made my own post in the group in attempt to find a sublease.

By creating my own post, I was able to come in contact with many more people. This granted me more opportunities and chances to strike a deal with a tenant, but also came at the cost of running into more scammers.

It took me a while to find an ideal apartment, but my efforts eventually came to fruition. However, as we continued talking, the subletter would continuously make up excuses to prevent me from touring their studio.

This created room for suspicion. They even provided an ID as proof of their existence, but their name did not match the one they had on Facebook. That should have been a good indicator of their legitimacy, but I ended up hanging on to this chance for a little longer.

As a last-ditch effort, I requested to have a FaceTime call with them, and yet again, they refused to do so. This was where I drew the line and had to go back to square one.

The second person I talked to was much more believable. Having that experience of talking to the first scammer, I was naturally a little more suspicious, especially seeing that they were not a student.

The first thing I did was do a reverse image Google search on the photos of the apartment sent to me. Although it doesn’t necessarily prove anything if nothing comes up, it validates that I was not dealing with an obvious, amateur scammer.

We got to the point of scheduling a time to tour the apartment, but the day right before our scheduled date, they started ghosting me. What’s more, they even changed their entire Facebook identity after they ghosted me. I went back on the search for sublets, and messaged many people until I finally found a tenant who was a legitimate student.

This time, they were the ones who wanted to FaceTime me. Just like how I was careful about the two scammers I encountered, they wanted to make sure I was a real person who was not suspicious. So, we set up a call and scheduled a time for touring the apartment, which only took around 2-3 days to complete.

Unlike my experience with the scammers, this person did not push for or even bring up signing a lease agreement or payment methods at all before the tour. It was only until I had brought that up did we start talking about money.

For a $3600 apartment including utilities, they required a $300 down payment that will be fully returned if the apartment is returned to them in good shape. As per monthly rent, I applied as a tenant and had the apartment subleased to me directly from the office rather than signing an agreement with the original tenant. This makes the transaction safer and more reliable and the apartment was finally secured.

Despite this being the process I went through, it seems it is not the most common method of obtaining a sublease. According to a family friend who already graduated college, she and many of her peers went through a slightly different process. When they found a sublease, they paid the original tenant rather than the office directly. In this case, the lease is still under the original tenant’s name, and the tenant will be the one making the payments to the office.

This means that it is possible for the tenant to charge a higher price than the apartment normally would be. In addition, they had to set up the utilities themselves most of the time. In her personal experience, she had to manually set up the WiFi, garbage disposal, as well as water and electricity bills.

The process and experience may differ for each person slightly, some being more hassle-free than others, but finding a sublease still stands as a great alternative to renting.