case study: subletting and recruiting

an edge case we discovered and how we solved it

Recently, a couple in our house decided to move into a new house that their friends were starting. They had very short notice to move, since the rooms in the new house needed to be filled right away. They made their decision to move on Jan 19 and moved out Feb 1. But since we have a two months notice policy, they have to pay double rent for a month and a half.

Because the room was free starting Feb 1, we decided to put "Ideal move in dates are between Feb 1 and March 19" on our recruiting posts. All of us, including the couple who moved out, thought it would be better for a long-term resident to move in sooner than March 19 if there was interest.

Where things got tricky was that the couple was interested in finding a subletter. In the past, we've had friends of residents stay at the house for a couple weeks and it was generally pretty quick and simple to get these short stays okay-ed by the house. But when the couple asked about having a subletter for the month of February, there was pushback. Some people wanted to meet the person first! Some wanted to wait for our next Sunday meeting before making a decision! Some were nervous about the potential finding a long-term resident who wanted to move in before March 1st. By five days later, the subletter had found somewhere else to stay.

takeaway one: timing for finding a subletter

We learned from this experience that when looking for subletters to move in very soon, there's not much time for the house to make a decision, since these people are in a rush to find a place to stay.

takeaway two: process for subletting

It also turned out that the potential subletter was a friend of someone in the house, which a lot of people hadn't realized. We didn't have a clear process for the house approving short stays, so we came up with a clearer process for the future.

takeaway three: handling subletting during recruiting

We had a tricky situation -- the couple was paying rent for their room until March 19th, and therefore should be able to do what they wanted with that room, and they wanted to make rent money back through subletting. But we also wanted to rent the room out to a longer-term resident and all wanted to give them the option of moving in earlier. We didn't want to promise a move-in date that we couldn't follow through on.

In the end we decided that people moving get to explicitly decide which date to put on the housing postings, and they can do whatever they want with the room before that date.

In our situation, we came up with a flexible solution of changing our posting to say "Available March 19th, with the possibility of moving in earlier". If the couple finds a subletter, then the move-in date is March 19th. If we want to give an offer to someone and there's no subletter yet, then we can offer the room starting earlier.

And hopefully by writing this up, future houses can avoid ending up in the situation we did!