Sublease and Assignment

Do you know the difference between a sublease and an assignment?  We can help…

The right of possession may be transferred by the tenant to a third person either by sublease or assignment, provided the landlord gives  consent when required. The substance of the transfer, rather than its form, may well determine the parties’ liabilities to the landlord (see below). Thus, when the tenant retains some right of reentry onto the leased premises, the law deems the transfer a sublease. On the other  hand, if the tenant transfers the entire leasehold estate, retaining no right of reentry or other reversionary interest, the transfer is an assignment.

Landlord’s Consent Required

Texas Property Code § 91.005 provides that a tenant may not sublease or rent leased premises during the term of the lease without first obtaining the landlord’s consent. The statute has been held to apply to assignments as well as subleases.  Since the statutory prohibition of assignments or subletting is solely for the landlord’s benefit, only the landlord may bring an action for any wrong done as a result of a  sublease or  assignment made without consent. If the original tenant does assign or sublet the lease without the landlord’s consent, the landlord may refuse to accept rent and treat the lease as forfeited.

The statutory prohibition against assigning a lease without the landlord’s consent may be avoided only by a clear expression of such an intent. For example, a lease provision granting the lessee the right to assign the lease without the landlord’s consent when the tenant is mortgaging its interest will not operate as a relinquishment by the landlord of the right to consent to subsequent assignments.

A landlord traditionally has no duty to consent to the proposed assignment of a lease unless such a duty is expressly stated in the lease. However, the Texas Supreme Court’s 1997 decision to impose a duty to mitigate damages on landlords will limit the right to refuse consent in many cases. A lease to a named person and that person’s heirs has been held to amount to an express authorization of either an assignment or a sublease.

A lease may include a provision that the landlord may not unreasonably withhold consent to a sublease or assignment. In that case, the reasonableness of the landlord’s refusal to consent is determined by reference to the terms and conditions of the original lease. It is unreasonable for the landlord to condition consent on a change in the terms and conditions of the original lease based on what the landlord finds economically advantageous at the time of the attempted assignment or sublease.

The landlord’s acceptance of payments with knowledge of a sublease raises a material fact issue as to whether the landlord has waived the right to object to the sublease.

Liabilities of Parties Upon Sublease or Assignment

Even when the landlord consents to an assignment or sublease, the original tenant is not released from the obligations of the original lease. In an assignment situation, the assignee, as well as the original  tenant, is bound by the covenants of the original lease. For instance, when the landlord does not receive rent from the lessee’s  assignees, and the assignees appear to have abandoned the premises, the landlord has the  right to re-let the property. By so doing, the landlord will not abrogate the lease and may recover from the former lessee or the assignees  the amount of  the agreed rent for the entire contract period, less any sum realized from re-letting

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