In the 14 years that I’ve been in private practice, I have subleased or office-shared for 12 of them, and to be honest, I’ll probably do so until I retire. I’m big on both efficiency and saving money. If you are too, keep reading for tips to make a rock-solid contract that sets clear expectations and benefits both parties.
Maybe you’re considering subletting your space to someone. Maybe you’re considering subleasing someone else’s space. Either way, I want you to insist on a clear contract. A contract should include the specific days or timespan that each of you are in possession of the office in addition to the duration of the sublease, the amount of rent the sublessee pays, and the percentage in which the rate will increase from contract to contract where applicable.
If you are responsible for cleaning the office, then divvying up those chores clearly in your lease or, my suggestion, including the cost of going in together to hire someone to clean once or twice a month, is good to include. In addition, state whether there’s an add-on charge for Wi-Fi or for utilities like electricity or water.
Make sure that both parties are clear about what a potential breach in the subleasing agreement would look like like. A handshake and good intentions don’t always cut it in these circumstances, and it’s better to be crystal clear legally and financially before entering into this relationship, just in case.
Also, talk about the things you expect that aren’t legally contractual, like a mutual expectation that both of you return the office to neutral and empty the trash can before you go. As an aside, it’s worth mentioning that I’m an only child and a neat freak. I’ve loosened up quite a bit throughout the years thanks to having children and dogs of my own, but a tidy, well put-together office is important to me. People I’ve shared offices with share that sentiment enough that they’re willing to keep it clean. Like most things in life, it’s a matter of balancing boundaries and maintaining flexibility in addition to having grace for people and holding them to standards that they’ve agreed to.
If you are the person with the primary lease, you have the primary responsibility and liability for the office. You’re often the person who has furnished the space, and it is important to be compensated for that. If you and the sublessee are splitting the time 50/50, it’s economically responsible for you to ask them for more than half the rent.
Sublessees, you have some say in these things, too. If you want to shift your hours or add a throw pillow to the loveseat, talk to the leaseholder. As the sublessee, it’s your space, too. You’re just as vital to that office as the lease holder, and you are ideally in a symbiotic situation where it’s more conversational and balanced than “my way or the highway.” If it is contentious and even volatile despite your best efforts, get out. I don’t want a bad roommate to sully private practice for anyone. Just because the leaseholder has more legal power doesn’t mean you don’t have a right to use your voice.
This all may sound scary, but with an agreed upon contract and careful consideration of your fit with the other person, subleasing is an amazing way to get the most out of an office space and reduce your overhead.* The content of this post is intended to serve as general advice and information. It is not to be taken as legal advice and may not account for all rules and regulations in every jurisdiction. For legal advice, please contact an attorney.