Short-Term Leases: Pros & Cons

Rather than committing to a whole year and having to find someone to sublease, you may be able to find a short-term lease.

What is a short-term lease?

A short-term lease typically refers to a rental lease that is less than six months. The most common short-term leases are three months and month-to-month.

More often, you’ll see short-term lease options available in markets and neighborhoods where demand is high but supply is limited. With a larger pool of renters than available rental units, landlords in these areas have an easier time handling renter churn and maintaining occupancy.

As a general rule-of-thumb, landlords will be more willing to sign a shorter lease in times of rapidly rising rents and will want to lock in longer lease terms in times of flat or declining rents.

Pros of a shorter lease

Some renters prefer shorter-term leases for the sheer flexibility they provide to act on various types of opportunities, whether that be moving for work, family, travel or a better apartment down the street.

  • If you’re a renter who has recently been laid off and is looking for work, a short-term lease can provide added flexibility by allowing you to search for a job that potentially falls outside of your current “commuting” zone
  • If you need to move for a temporary work assignment in another city, state or country, a short-term lease gives you more mobility
  • If you’ve just moved to a new state or city and would like to take the time to locate the perfect neighborhood to settle down in, finding an apartment with a short-term lease first would give you the chance to really get to know the city while living in it

Cons of a shorter lease

For renters, there are a few drawbacks associated with short-term apartment leases — and most of those drawbacks will hit you where it hurts: your bank account.

  • Typically, property owners charge more for a short-term lease, so you end up paying more in the short term, as well as the long term if you continue to renew the short-term lease over an extended time period
  • Property owners are able to raise the monthly rent rate more frequently. Therefore, if a tenant signs a short-term lease and then decides to renew at the end of the lease term, there’s always the possibility of a rent increase for the new lease
  • The property owner is able to change the terms of the lease more frequently, which could have negative implications for the renter

man thinking

Debating your lease terms

Property owners generally prefer longer apartment leases. By signing tenants to a full-year lease, the property owner can rest assured that they won’t have to spend money or time turning the unit. When a tenant moves out of an apartment, the biggest concern for the owner is the potential loss of monthly revenue if they can’t fill the unit quickly.

If it takes a few months to find a new tenant, income and cash flow are directly impacted by the vacancy and the higher price of a short-term lease provides some cushion against this risk. Each time a tenant moves out, the property owner has to take the time and money to advertise the unit, as well as get it ready for the next tenant, including cleaning, painting, potentially replacing carpeting and fixing any wear and tear on the unit.

Ultimately, short-term leases are not as cost-effective and much more risky for property owners to offer, which is why you don’t see them as often. But depending on your situation, it might be the right fit for you.

How to find short-term leases

Rental sites offer the option to filter search results by lease length. You can search for apartments that offer three-month or six-month agreements. When looking online, use search terms like “short-term rentals,” “short- term leases” and “temporary housing.” Fully-furnished apartments are also available.

You may be surprised by the number of landlords that are flexible and willing to work with you to meet short-term lease terms. You’ll usually pay more for a flexible lease, but it can be well worth it to have the time to find a new home that fits your needs.

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Rachel CooperRachel Cooper is a freelance writer and author with more than a decade of online journalism and content creation experience. She has written for About.com, Washingtonian, Federal City Council, Montgomery Parks, Destination Maryland, Conde Nast Traveler, Payscale, Valpak, Grandparents.com, Washington Parent and more. Her books include Quiet Water: Mid-Atlantic, AMC’s Canoe and Kayak Guide to the Best Ponds, Lakes and Easy Rivers; 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Washington, D.C. and Images of Rail: Union Station in Washington, D.C.

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