What is a Short-Term Lease?

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Image Source: iStock.com/gorodenkoffZumper

Looking for a place to live but need flexibility? If you can’t commit to one apartment for a full year, whether because of a job or because you can work remotely from anywhere, a short-term lease might be the best option for you. 

Lease duration can vary significantly, and with many companies now offering work-from-home options to their employees, short-term leases—leases shorter than six months—are becoming more available, making your apartment search much more limitless.  

What is a short-term lease?

Leases or rental agreements can last anywhere from one week to several years. Typically, a standard lease lasts one year. A short-term lease is, generally speaking, any rental agreement that lasts fewer than six months.

You can renew a short-term lease on a weekly or monthly basis, with month-to-month rental agreements being the most common. Depending on the property owner’s willingness to negotiate, you might also be able to specify your own lease duration. 

What are the perks of short-term leases?

The primary draw of short-term agreements is flexibility. With a shorter contract, renters can find great housing in many circumstances, such as:

  • Searching for a job in a new area and need a temporary place to stay
  • Moving for a temporary work assignment 
  • Taking an extended vacation
  • Moving to a new area and need time to find a house, apartment, or property that meets your long-term needs
  • Temporary housing in between long-term leases
  • Needing to move out at a moment’s notice

What are the drawbacks of short-term leases?

Short-term leases can come at a cost. With this type of lease, landlords or property managers can:

  • Charge more for rent, so you could end up spending more money than you would have on a longer lease
  • Have more opportunity to change contract terms (security deposits, pets, etc.) on each renewal

While landlords are usually obliged to give advance notice of rent adjustments, the laws that govern the length of advance notice vary depending on the state and city in which the property resides. 

Finding a short-term rental

Short-term rentals have become more popular for both renters and landlords.

While some property managers may not advertise short-term leases, you’ll find that a number are open to negotiation.  If you find a property that really interests you, don’t be afraid to ask for the lease duration you want. 

It may also be easier to find short-term rental agreements in areas with high demand, or with a low number of available rental properties.

What to look for in a short-term rental

Whether your short-term lease is for one week or six months, it’s important to ensure you feel comfortable in your temporary living environment. Start by filtering your short-term rental search by desired amenities such as in-unit laundry, fitness center, onsite parking, private outdoor area, and more. Next, factor in the location. Will you have a car with you or will you be looking to stay in an area easily accessible by foot? Being right near the action will make it easier to find options for dining and entertainment, but could mean being located in a lively neighborhood with higher noise levels.

If you’re planning to stay in a short-term rental with your pet, you might want to consider renting a house with a yard, and will want to pay close attention to any added deposits or cleaning fees. Make a list of needs and wants prior to beginning your short-term search to ensure you find a rental that is the perfect fit.

FAQ: Short-term leases

Are short-term leases more expensive than long-term leases?

Generally, yes. Shorter leases mean more turn-over for landlords and property management companies. To offset the cost of cleaning, more frequent vacancies, and potential wear and tear of the unit, shorter the lease lengths will mean higher rent prices.

Are month-to-month leases and short-term leases the same thing?

Not exactly. Month-to-month leases last for a period of 30-days. A short-term lease can be for a 30 day period but could also be for as short as one week.

Can I enter into a short-term lease after my long-term lease expires?

This could definitely be an option, but will ultimately be up to your landlords discretion. Some property management companies will provide short-term lease options with the renewal letter at the end of your long-term lease. These can be anywhere from six months to three months, or month-to-month.Again, keep in mind that the rent price for a shorter lease length will likely be higher than your monthly rate for a 12 month lease.

A short-term lease might be the best solution for you. Search for available apartments on Zumper, and filter for “Short term” under “Lease Length.”

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