Rent-stabilized housing makes up a significant share of the New York residential property market. A question that often comes up is whether a tenant in a rent-regulated apartment has the right to sublet. The answer is generally yes, but there are some important qualifications, as well as some important rules that must be followed.
A tenant has the right to request permission from the landlord to sublet the unit, and the landlord cannot unreasonably refuse to give permission. A proposed sublessee with bad credit might be a reasonable basis for refusal; the proposed sublessee's race, religion or gender would not.
The tenant must make the request by certified mail, with return receipt requested, at least 30 days before the proposed sublease begins. The request must include specific information, including the term of the proposed sublease, the sublessee's name, business and home addresses, the reason for the request and the tenant's address while subletting. The term of any sublease is limited by the rent stabilization laws; the tenant can only sublease the apartment for two years out of a four-year period.
One critical thing to keep in mind is that in order to keep the rent-stabilized apartment, the tenant must continue to maintain it as their primary residence. The primary tenant will still be considered a primary resident if they sublease the apartment while they are away in college or the military, or taking a temporary job out of town. But, if the primary tenant has another primary residence, the landlord can terminate their lease in court. It is important to follow the rules when subletting. Failing to do so can have harsh consequences, possibly including the loss of the lease.
Source: New York City Rent Guidelines Board, "Subletting FAQ," accessed Aug. 31, 2015