Assignment vs Subletting - What is the difference?

Assignment vs Subletting – What are the differences?

Assigning a residential lease agreement and subletting are two distinct ways of transferring tenancy rights in a rental property, each involving different legal and practical implications. Here’s a breakdown of their differences:

Assignment of a Residential Lease Agreement:


  • Transfer of Responsibility: Assigning a lease involves transfer of the original tenant’s entire interest in the lease to a new tenant. The original tenant ceases to have any rights or obligations related to the property.


  • Consent from Landlord: Typically requires the landlord's explicit permission or consent. The landlord is often involved in vetting and approving the new tenant.

  • Replacement Tenant: The original tenant may find a replacement (assignee) who takes over the lease entirely. The landlord may also market for a new tenant and vet any potential replacement tenants.

Legal Responsibility:

  • Liability: The assignor (original tenant) is usually released from all liabilities and obligations once the lease is assigned to the new tenant.  This may key off of the new tenant taking possession of the rental unit.

  • Direct Relationship with Landlord: The new tenant (assignee) becomes directly responsible to the landlord for rent payments, property maintenance, and adherence to lease terms by effectively “stepping into the shoes” of the departing tenant.


  • End of Original Tenancy: For the assignor, once the lease is assigned, their association with the property generally ends. They may not have recourse if the assignee defaults on payments or breaches the lease.

Subletting of a Residential Lease Agreement:


  • Partial Transfer: Subletting occurs when the original tenant rents out all or part of the property to a subtenant while retaining some rights and responsibilities under the original lease.


  • Consent from Landlord: Usually requires the landlord's permission, as outlined in the lease agreement. Some leases explicitly prohibit subletting.

  • Ongoing Relationship with Landlord: The original tenant (sublessor) maintains responsibility to the landlord for lease obligations.

Legal Responsibility:

  • Obligations: The sublessor remains responsible for rent payments and adherence to lease terms, acting as an intermediary between the landlord and subtenant.

  • Relationship with Subtenant: The sublessee has a legal relationship with the sublessor rather than the landlord. The sublessee must adhere to terms agreed upon in the sublease.


  • Ongoing Responsibility: The original tenant (sublessor) remains liable to the landlord for the property and its condition. They're responsible for any damages or lease violations caused by the sublessee.

  • Continued Tenancy: The original tenant maintains an ongoing relationship with the property and the landlord.




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Key Differences: 

  • Transfer of Responsibility: Assigning a lease completely transfers the tenant's interest to a new tenant, while subletting involves the original tenant retaining some rights and responsibilities.
  • Direct Relationship: In assignment, the new tenant has a direct relationship with the landlord, whereas in subletting, the original tenant maintains this relationship. 
  • Liability and Obligations: Assigning a lease typically releases the original tenant from obligations, while subletting keeps them responsible for the property.

Both assignment and subletting can offer flexibility to tenants but come with distinct legal and practical implications that tenants and landlords should carefully consider before proceeding. Understanding these differences helps individuals choose the appropriate option based on their circumstances and lease agreement terms.

In most cases, assignment is the best course as it avoids the main pitfall of subletting, namely that the subletting tenant has no direct relationship or responsibility to the landlord/owner of the rental unit.  For that reason, professional property managers normally recommend termination of the original lease and negotiation of a new lease with the replacement tenant.  The outgoing tenant will normally absorb some of the costs associated with securing a replacement and the property manager makes sure the turnover is handled property.  Having experience when these issues arise is important to protect the landlord’s interests.  If you need management of an investment property, call one of our managers today to learn why so many landlords believe TREG is the RIGHT CHOICE for property management.

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