If you’re a tenant and want to move before the end of the lease, there are two ways you can avoid paying rent until the end of the lease.
What is the difference between subletting and assigning a lease?
You can assign your lease if you decide to leave your rental unit permanently during the course of the lease. You transfer your lease to someone else and have no further responsibilities as a tenant under the lease.
Subletting, on the other hand, can be a temporary arrangement. When you sublet your apartment, you have the right to return when the sub-lease comes to an end. But when you sublet, you’re still responsible for the lease and have other responsibilities toward the sub-tenant.
What does an assignment or sublet mean for the people involved?
When you assign your lease, the person taking over the lease assumes all the rights and responsibilities you had as a tenant toward the landlord. You no longer have any rights under the lease or responsibilities toward the landlord.
In a sublet, the person to whom you sublet – the subtenant – becomes the temporary tenant under the lease and has all the rights of a tenant, except the right of “occupancy”. This means that as the original tenant, you can return at the end of the sublease.
If you are the person subletting to a subtenant, you are still responsible for the lease. If the subtenant does not pay the rent, you are responsible for paying it. Also, when you sublet, you assume the responsibilities of a landlord toward the subtenant. You must leave the apartment in good, clean and habitable condition. If repairs are needed and the landlord doesn’t do them, the sub-tenant can ask you to do the repairs. You also have to make sure the sub-tenant can live in the apartment peacefully.
Can I assign my lease or sublet at any time?
No. The law says that there are three situations in which you cannot assign your lease or sublet:
- You are a student renting housing in an educational institution.
- You are a tenant in low-rent housing.
- Your rental unit is declared as the main residence of your family (the place where your family carries on its daily activities) and your spouse or partner refuses to sublet or assign the lease.
What steps do I have to take to assign my lease or sublet?
If you are in a situation that lets you assign your lease or sublet you must send your landlord a notice of assignment or sublet, once you have found a potential tenant.
This notice must include the name and address of the potential tenant and the projected date for the assignment or sublet. You must send this notice to the landlord’s address as it appears on your lease and it must be written in the same language (French, English, etc.) as the lease.
You can get a model notice on the website of the Tribunal administratif du logement (TAL, formerly Régie du logement or rental board) or by visiting their offices.
The landlord must reply within 15 days of getting your notice. The landlord cannot refuse the assignment or sublet unless there is a good reason, such as the proposed tenant’s inability to pay the rent or problematic behavior of this tenant. This is the case no matter what your lease or the building rules say. If the landlord does not respond to your notice within the 15-day period, the law considers that your landlord accepts your request to assign or sublet.
What can I do if my landlord refuses to let me sublet or assign the lease?
You can ask the TAL to force your landlord to accept the assignment or sublet if he has no good reason for refusing.
For more information on requests to the TAL, see our article The Tribunal administratif du logement.
Can a landlord cancel a sublet?
Yes. A landlord can ask to cancel a sublet if the subtenant causes serious inconvenience to the landlord or the other occupants of the building. This could be the case, for example, if the subtenant pays the rent late or causes so much noise that other tenants complain.
A landlord in this situation can request not only the cancellation of the lease, but also compensation (money) for the harm caused.