How to Find Short Term Housing as a College Student

by Jalen & Sarah Bromley

Every student wants to live somewhere that’s comfortable, spacious, and close to their college. But finding somewhere that ticks all the boxes is often easier said than done — especially if you only want to live somewhere over the short term. Or maybe you’re in the opposite predicament, maybe you want to let out your living space for a few months. In both cases, subletting and short-term housing often emerge as solutions for college students. 

If you want to learn more, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we’ll run through what subletting is, how to sublet or find a sublet space, and other tips.

What is subletting?

Renting involves a landlord letting a space out to a tenant. Subletting brings one more person into this process — the original tenant lets out the space to a third person, known as a subtenant.

The subtenant is then added to the rental agreement, along with the original tenant.

Note that this is slightly different from reletting, which is when a lease finishes and the landlord starts a lease with a new tenant. Is subletting a good choice for college students?

Benefits of subletting

Typically, student rent contracts are a fixed length of six months or a year. Yet students often move away for a few months while completing their majors — you may secure an internship elsewhere, study abroad for a semester, or even return home for the summer.

This isn’t great news from a financial perspective, because it means you’ll be paying rent for a place you’re not actually living in. If you also need to find accommodation in the place you are living in, you could even end up paying double rent.

Subletting offers a solution.

For many students, it also offers a more attractive option than moving out of your accommodation for good. Instead of going to the bother of moving all your belongings and finding somewhere to store them (potentially incurring extra costs), you can let out the space to someone else and know everything will be ready for when you come back.


However, that’s not to say that subletting is without its challenges.

You may not have to move out all your belongings, but subletting does involve a lot of planning and coordination. As you’ll soon see, you may have to find and vet a tenant yourself.

There’s also some potential risk. Since your name will still be on the rental agreement, if the subtenant fails to pay their rent, you may have to cover their costs instead. Another potential risk is that the subtenant could neglect or damage the space — again, resulting in more costs for you.

How to sublet your space

Decided that subletting is the right path for you? Below, we’ve provided a framework for how you can make it a success.

Communicate with landlord

The first step is to let your landlord know about your intentions to sublet. The sooner you involve them in the process, the more likely they are to work with you and not against you.

Remember — landlords just want to know they’ll have a reliable tenant who will pay their rent promptly and look after their property. If you can assure them that you’re willing to put in the work required to find a suitable replacement tenant, they’re less likely to take issue with you subletting. 

However, they may want you to sign a contract confirming that you’ll take responsibility for any costs or damages. They’ll also want to know when you intend to move out and how you’ll find a replacement (don’t worry, we’ll cover that shortly).

A final piece of advice: Make sure you understand local subletting laws before you talk to your landlord — don’t just assume that they’ll be clued up and able to guide you through everything. They may be unfamiliar with subletting and reluctant to proceed unless you can show you know what you’re doing.

Decide on the price and terms

Your first instinct may be to ask for the same amount of money you’re currently paying to rent your place so you can fully offset your costs. But unless you snapped it at a bargain price or supply is very limited in your area, this may not be the strategy that drums up enough interest to find a subtenant.

If you charge a little less than market prices, you’re giving people an incentive to let your place, meaning you’re more likely to attract more inquiries. This is especially true in college towns, where there tends to be a high volume of lets available. Alternatively, you could offer a good deal by throwing in extras, such as covering utility bills.

Still, don’t go too low. Some potential subtenants may try to negotiate with you no matter what!

Find a subtenant

The most crucial step in this process is finding a subtenant.

There are a few websites dedicated solely to matching you with people looking for short-term housing, such as and Or, you can turn to online marketplaces like Craigslist or social media sites like Facebook to see if you can find someone — these are often the first place people will turn to look for last-minute accommodation. 

Another option is to use your “network.” If you let your classmates, friends, and roommates know you’re looking to sublet your room or apartment, word might spread to the right person. You could even print out some fliers and post them around your college campus.

In some cases, your college may have a dedicated listing service that advertises student properties in the area.

Confirm interest

As is the case for standard renting, interested subtenants will want to arrange a viewing. Time to put your realtor hat on and prepare answers to common questions, such as what the local area is like.

If you’re lucky, you may have multiple candidates to choose between. In that case, you can choose the most promising subtenant by accounting for factors like credit score and income.

If you have roommates, they’ll most likely appreciate it if you involve them in the process by giving them a say on potential subtenants.

Draft an agreement 

This is where the stakes get high. As mentioned, your name will still be on the agreement when you sublet, so this contract is your chance to ensure you’re properly protected.

Most of the time, the landlord will take control of the process and draft a contract themselves. But it’s still important to read the contract thoroughly and communicate with the subtenant yourself.

If you need to draft an agreement yourself, it can be a daunting process, but there are plenty of templates available online. Make sure yours includes details including:

  • Rent amount
  • Due date 
  • Length of contract 
  • Whether furnishings and utilities are included
  • Any rules (e.g., guests or pets)
  • What happens if there’s damage

If you’re nervous about this process, contact the legal service department at your college for support. 

Vet the subtenant 

As mentioned, the ideal tenant would be someone with a solid credit score and income. To verify this, you can carry out a credit check.

Again, this might sound daunting, but it’s relatively simple. There are services like Zillow that let you carry out a credit check — including a basic criminal background check — for a relatively low fee ($30-60). 

Then there’s income. You can verify this easily by looking at a subtenant’s pay stubs. However, in the case of students, you may need to be a little more flexible. Many students need parents as co-signers or guarantors to be able to rent — in this case, you’ll need to pay stubs from the parents instead. Or, you may use proof of their financial aid instead.

You may also want to make brief calls to the employers or former landlords to verify that everything the subtenant has told you is true.

However, it’s not all about the numbers and the facts. You should also trust your own judgment about whether someone seems trustworthy.

Alternatives to subletting

If you want to let out your current accommodation without subletting, the primary alternative is to end your lease. In some states, the law says you can do this if your accommodation isn’t meeting the necessary standards, such as electricity issues or safety threats. 

Similarly, you could consider reletting.  This is a way of quickly ending your contract early so that someone else can rent the place instead. 

In both of these cases, you wouldn’t be able to return to your accommodation after. Also, you’ll need to make sure that you follow the correct processes and communicate with your landlord — otherwise, you could be at risk of breaking the terms of your lease and therefore losing your deposit. 

Given the number of steps involved in subletting your accommodation, you may be tempted to stick the property on Airbnb as an alternative. However, you’ll still have to communicate with your landlord, and they may not like the idea. 

Airbnb properties usually attract a high number of short-term visitors instead of one person who stays over a longer period — plus, there’s a lot less vetting involved. Then there are local regulations to consider. Some municipalities are cracking down on Airbnb and classing it as a business, which could catch you out.

How to rent a sublet space

We’ve well and truly covered everything you need to know about subletting your space. But what if you’re the one interested in renting out a sublet space?

Some of the top websites to find potential rentals include:

  • Craigslist
  • Facebook
  • CRBO
  • Anyplace

These will typically contain off-campus listings, which are easier to find. If you want on-campus accommodation, your options will be more limited in most places. However, students currently living on-campus who want to sublet may still post on some of these sites, especially on platforms like Facebook. 

Some colleges may have online forums, bulletin boards, or lists of sublets in campus housing offices, so it’s worth investigating these options too.

It’s just as crucial for subtenants to clue themselves up on subletting laws and the clauses contained in rental agreements. As well as making sure you understand the contract, you may want to request to see the original lease or see written proof from the landlord to ensure the person subletting is following the property legal processes.

And don’t forget there are many other housing and renting options for college students,  including dormitories and residence halls, private rentals, cooperative housing, and even homestays. Subletting is far from your only option, but it is one of the most viable choices for a short-term rental.

Top tips for subletting

Before you go ahead, here are some final words of wisdom to maximize your chances of a successful subletting experience.

The tips below apply to both potential subtenants and those who want to let their space out to others.

Legal considerations

We’ve touched on the law several times already, but it’s so vital that it’s worth reiterating. Some rental contracts have a clause saying you can’t sublet them, which is the first thing you should check for!

You should also ensure you understand how local laws affect subletting. For example, in some places, you need to give the property owner a certain amount of notice about subletting, obtain written permission, or pay fees. 

Talking to a realtor or landlord or seeking support from your college can help with this.

Take precautions

In an ideal world, subletting is a smooth and positive experience. However, it’s important to take precautions for possible negative circumstances.

Those subletting their place should take photos before they leave to protect themselves in case the subtenant causes damage. Likewise, subtenants should protect themselves by taking photos of the place when they arrive in case they’re accused of damage they weren’t responsible for.

Both parties should also ideally have an emergency fund in place in case something goes wrong.

Deal with someone in your circle

Renting to or letting from someone you know (or even a friend of a friend of a friend) is generally the best-case scenario. You’ll be dealing with a known quantity, and while there are never any guarantees, they’ll be less likely to act out if you’re in the same social circle.

This is much easier to achieve for students, who tend to live in a community where social circles overlap.

Prepare for a smooth move

Once you’re ready to move, good preparation can make all the difference.

Here are a few tips:

  • Decluttering ahead of time so you have less to pack
  • Labeling your boxes
  • Keeping important documents accessible 
  • Notifying your change of address with banks, employers, and more
  • Preparing a box of essentials and keeping it separate
  • Using bubble wrap, blankets, and similar to keep fragile belongings safe
  • Asking for help if necessary (either from friends or professionals) 

Get sublet smart

Subletting can be a mutually beneficial agreement. For those subletting their space, it’s a chance to recoup rent money they would have lost otherwise. And for the person renting the space, it can be a chance to grab a bargain and much-needed place to live. However, given the potential for legal complications and other risks when subletting goes wrong, 

Subletting might not be for everyone, but one thing that all students should care about is intelligent money management — and here at Frugal Student, that’s our primary mission. For more finance tips sent straight to your inbox, subscribe to our newsletter.

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