Offering A Sublet For The Holidays

IMG_1474Darla Murray This holiday season may be the last in which some New Yorkers are able to offer their apartments for short-term stays because of new regulations governing sublets.

As the holiday season approaches, Web sites like Roomorama, Homeaway and Craigslist will be flush with temporary vacation rental listings. According to Jia En, founder of Roomorama, a company specializing in short-term rentals, East Villagers are among the most active users of vacation rental sites.

“People in this neighborhood tend to travel a lot,” says Ms. En, who adds that they are also business savvy because “instead of leaving their place empty, they use it as a way to earn some extra money.” The holiday season can be especially lucrative.

“New Year’s Eve is one of the most popular times for visitors,” says Ms. En.
Unfortunately, for both residents wanting to make some extra cash and tourists hoping to save some, this will be the last holiday season that tenants will be able to sublet their apartments for short stays. In July, Governor David A. Paterson signed into law a bill that makes it illegal to rent out apartments for less than 30 days in New York.

The Local consulted veteran East Village subletters to draft a list of the Dos and Don’ts of subletting, just in case you’re hoping to take advantage of your last holiday season of short-term leasing:

Before you Begin

Do get permission
If you are not the owner of the property, check your rental agreement to see if short-term sublets are allowed. That being said, many people opt to sublet whether their lease prohibits it or not. One woman we spoke to actually asks her guests to say they’re her relatives should anyone ask.

Don’t procrastinate
Allow yourself about least three weeks to find guests. Make sure you have several good photos of your apartment to include with your listing.

The Listing

IMG_1473Darla Murray When listing a sublet, consider using a trusted site such as

Do use a reputable Web site
Craigslist is easy, free for renters, and gets a lot of traffic, but you might want to consider using a site like Roomorama or Home away. (Remember to use your listing to answer likely questions about pets or specific dates.) You won’t be charged to list your property (the renter will pay about a 12 percent fee, though.) Still, it minimizes the risk of scams because all payments are made through the company Web site. Even better? Rent to a friend-of-a-friend. Oh, and it’s generally bad form to charge friends to stay at your place ̶ even when you’re not there.

Don’t be greedy
Besides being within walking distance of Sing Sing Karaoke, Veselka, and other quintessentially East Village locales, one of the main reasons people opt for a short-term rental is because it’s more affordable than a hotel. So unless you plan to create origami swans out of towels and provide midnight mac and cheese room service, make sure the price of your apartment is in line with similar listings by searching for comparable apartments in your area before you decide on an asking price. Dates can also affect pricing. Rentals over Christmas and New Year’s are in hot demand, and with limited supply, you can expect to get 20 percent to 30 percent more during these periods.

The Transaction

Do insist on a damage deposit

LuggageDarla Murray Securing a damage deposit can be crucial.

Ask for cash, a check, or a PayPal payment equal to half the total cost. Most people find that renters treat the place as their own, but in the off-chance they pull a Charlie Sheen, a deposit might be your saving grace.

Don’t consider it booked until they show you the money
People’s plans change and you might be the last to find out. The deposit can act as a way of holding the booking. To avoid being bailed on, keep the listing active until you have received the deposit.

The Stay

Don’t clear out all of your personal belongings
If your apartment is a sanctuary for old phonebooks and stray cats or resembles a bottle-and-can redemption center, it might be time to clear away the clutter before you open up your house for short-term rentals. For everyone else, don’t fret about clearing out your stuff. Guests understand that they’re staying in someone’s home, so they expect to see photos on the walls and to use monogrammed towels with your initials, but definitely clear some space in the closet or a drawer for their belongings.

Do provide some tips about the neighborhood

MapsDarla Murray Providing maps and guides for your guests to use can be a welcome gesture.

It’s a nice touch to leave a map, city guide, or even a list of your favorite East Village haunts. One renter leaves his guests a six-pack of McSorley’s Ale in the fridge and a list of other nearby pubs. Emergency contact information can be helpful, too. And while you don’t have to get all Ned Flanders on them and leave Post-It notes throughout the apartment, it might be a good idea to consider leaving instructions for using the five TV remotes.


Do return the damage deposit promptly
And also be sure to get your keys back.

Do ask for a reference
If you plan on renting your apartment out in the future, it will be helpful to have a few positive reviews by previous guests.