Not all PCS orders are long term. In fact, some service members receive what we consider short-term orders that send them to a new duty station for a year or a handful of months.
We all like to think it’s best to stay together as a family, but if the kids are set up at school, the military spouse has a fantastic job, and the dog has neighborhood friends, then it may be easiest for the service member to head out alone.
Other extenuating circumstances, such as a house that is unable to sell or a family member with medical problems that the new location doesn’t have resources for, are also reasons a military member might choose to become a geo bachelor/bachelorette renter (not a true “single” but someone geographically separated from their spouse).
Whether it’s economical, logistical, or a combination of both, you’ll face much of the same PCS process as a typical move. Are you a military member looking for a short-term rental? Here are some tips to help you begin. We’ll talk about different military rental properties, what they each look like, and how to make these unique short-term renting arrangements work.
Research Different Types of Rental Properties
1) In-Home Room or Apartment Rental
When you hear of someone leasing a room or an apartment inside someone’s home, you probably think of a young college kid. Or maybe a recent grad. You might associate this type of rental with someone who has few belongings and even fewer responsibilities.
While an in-home rental can appeal to the type of people described above, it can also encompass those looking to save money, assume less responsibility, and avoid long-term commitment — all of which describe a geo bachelor/bachelorette.
An in-home rental can also be fantastic for those looking for a short-term commitment. The lease terms should be simple. No need to worry yourself with the big stuff like home and yard maintenance or moving large items such as a washer/dryer, living room, and dining room furniture.
But before you commit to an in-home rental, comb through the details.
Pay attention to details like:
- Furnishings. A fully furnished rental is likely going to be a must!
- Amenities. What's included, exactly? Utilities, internet, cable, and HVAC are all pretty high on the priority list. And what about the community? Is there a pool, gym, golf course, or other activities that might interest you?
- Storage. The need for storage may not be high without a house full of stuff accompanying you. However, military gear is a hefty burden, and you may come to realize that it takes up more space than you remembered.
- Housemates. Do you want roommates? Do you not want roommates? More on this topic later.
- Rules. Rules are good! Issues like the pet policy, shared living space, curfew, use of alcohol, and allowance of guests might be written in the lease and can help determine which place is best for you.
In these types of situations, you have to consider all sides. In this case, you have homeowners, people who are renting space to save or make money. And since it’s their space, and you’re sharing it, they’re usually looking for a clean, mature, and quiet type of tenant. As long as there are clear rules about shared kitchens, bathrooms, and communal living spaces, these arrangements can work well.
2) On-Base Military Housing
Privatized military housing companies often provide rental options. On-base military housing is great for short-term renters because it not only gifts the service member with a short commute, but it also usually includes utilities in the monthly rental payment—eliminating the headache of setting up and canceling services.
The option for single or roommate living is available at competitive prices. Since the renters are predominantly military, lease terms are usually 6, 9, or 12 months, with the flexibility to extend after the lease is up. These rooms are first-come-first-serve, so it’s a good idea to get a call in as soon as possible.
Decide If You Want a Roommate
In geo-bachelor situations, you’re often concerned about saving money because you’re likely paying for the household you left behind as well as the temporary home you’re moving into. So the idea of finding a roommate, someone to split costs with, can be attractive.
For some, there’s no amount of money worth saving to warrant living with a stranger. For others, the more the merrier. While it can be a fantastic opportunity to keep your finances and goals on the road to success, this decision is personal and goes beyond the financial lens.
Not sure if a roommate is right for you? Ask yourself these four questions before committing:
- Does the space available accommodate two people and the military gear you (or both) need?
- How would you feel about a stranger as a roommate?
- Consider your stage in life. A 35-year-old dad might not hit it off with an 18-year-old right out of basic training. Are you willing to cross generations for a roommate?
- Can you trust the other person enough if you have to travel or deploy?
An honest conversation with a potential roommate is the perfect place to start. From here, you can determine if you’re compatible enough to be comfortable with each other, set expectations (pet policy, overnight guests, visitors, and shared spaces), and help you avoid tension down the road.
Roommates don’t always have to be strangers. It might work out that you’re able to live with or rent from a family member. But be mindful of the risk associated with living with family. Family members may feel that it is their right to know your comings and goings, and you might feel obligated to share more than you wish. Boundaries are the key to maintain privacy and avoid familial damage. Set expectations before you move in.
Can cohabitation work for military members?
Some Logistics to Remember with Roommates
Your landlord should also be aware of your roommate arrangement. Lease terms are exceptionally important to negotiate—particularly if one of you is leaving sooner than the other. Time to get down to the nitty-gritty!
“In the lease that you signed, your landlord most likely laid out what will happen if one of the renters in a multi-tenant property vacates the premises. In some cases, the landlord treats each roommate individually and will not require anyone else to pay their rent if they break their lease. In other cases, the landlord might determine that it's up to the remaining tenants to pay the missing piece of the rent if a roommate breaks the lease. Consult your lease before taking any action.” — Is Your Roommate Breaking the Lease? 5 Things To Do Before They Bail
You can see how the remaining roommate may find themselves in a difficult financial situation. So, what can you do to help make the inevitable transition out of your short-term military rental a smooth one?
- Find a rental with a shorter lease (one that matches your timeline).
- Find a roommate also in the military.
- Be transparent with your roommate about when you’ll be leaving. Give them a heads up (or ask for a heads up) that you might have to break the lease. They may have another roommate lined up or have the same timeframe as you.
- Read through your lease. While a potential landlord may turn you away (you might find some that embrace your situation), you should always know what’s written in your lease and how they handle multiple renters.
But what about the military clause?
It's important to understand that the military clause under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act that permits breaking a lease for orders does not cover both roommates on the lease. In fact, it doesn’t even cover cohabitating romantic partners.
Find Your Short-Term Rental on MilitaryByOwner
Just as you’ve no doubt found single-family homes in the past, you can also search for room rentals and apartment listings on MilitaryByOwner.
To expedite the search process:
- Highlight “rent.”
- Enter your desired military installation, city, or zip code.
- When the search results populate, scroll over to “refine search.”
- Click on “home type.”
- If there are rooms for rent in that area, they will show under “room for rent.”
While you may have never been through this process before, short term renting doesn’t have to be difficult. Whether your need for a temporary rental is economical or logistical, MilitaryByOwner is here to help with your transition!
By Danielle Keech