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Q.What is the difference between a sublease and an assignment?

A.A sublease is a separate rental agreement between the original tenant (lessee) and a new tenant who will occupy and use all, or part of, the leased premises leased by the original tenant. The new tenant is called a "subtenant." With a sublease the original tenant remains accountable to the landlord under the original terms of the lease and in effect becomes the landlord of the subtenant. Under a sublease, the original tenant remits payment of the rent to the landlord and remains fully responsible for any missed rental payments, damage to the premises, or other default.

An assignment, on the other hand, is a complete transfer of the Lease Agreement from the tenant to a third party assignee. Once an assignment is made, the third party assignee becomes directly accountable to the landlord under the terms of the Lease Agreement (for the payment of rent, for damages to the rental unit, etc...). However, even with an assignment, the original tenant remains liable to the landlord for his or her original obligations under the lease if the assignee doesn't pay rent, or damages the rental unit (See, California Civil Code Section 822).

Only if the landlord, the tenant, and the assignee all agree in a signed writing to a "novation" will the original tenant be absolved of all responsibility under the original lease.

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