by Dawn Smith
Military families fulfill all life stages of rental home needs. Single, young, newly married, and married with three kids are just a few examples of families looking for homes. Rental home experiences for military differ, but the need for renter awareness remains the same. The more information you obtain upfront, the better your home life will be.
It’s simple to begin researching the fundamentals of how to rent the perfect home and MilitaryByOwner has many rental resources to guide the search. Basics such as location, commute times, and budgeting the cost of the rent each month are pretty easy to calculate, but there are other circumstances that get overlooked by renters new to the game, and even some nuances that experienced renters may forget. Consider these Don’t scenarios before signing on the dotted line.
Meeting with a landlord can be an anxious time if you feel like your previous research is pointing to his house as the perfect one. For example, you love the location of the house because your kids can walk to the top rated school in the area, but upon meeting the owner he is less than thrilled to open up the house and seems that he would rather be anywhere than there.
He shows you the dated house, but you can look past some cosmetic blemishes because you love the school. As he touts his 1950s oven as vintage and his custom spice racks as the best features in the kitchen, your heart sinks, but you hold out hope. The rest of the house is just as old, neglected, and wood panel-filled, but your last question is, "Are you planning any update projects?" He responds quickly with a "No." There are no offers from him for a thorough yard clean up and no negotiation in rent as enticements to sign the lease.
By the time you leave, his attitude clearly projects that you should be thrilled with his outdated, overpriced, but perfectly located home. You later find out, with the help of a real estate agent, that he’s known in the area as basically a slumlord with several exceptionally placed, once beautiful homes. He’s made his money from military families desperate due to time constraints and who valued exceptional schools and short commute times to the local base.
Conversely, your next potential landlord is the kindest and sweetest woman you will ever meet who wants a good family in her beloved seaside home. She left begrudgingly due to family issues and wants to make sure she can return in the next few years to reclaim her residence. Her financial situation is not good, and your rent is a major source of income for her. You know all of this because she readily tells you her personal businesses. She is basically laying the ground work to say, "I do not have the money or the intention to fix or update any of the problems with the house."
Don’t overlook your potential landlord’s involvement or non-involvement during your lease term! They can be a huge advantage or disadvantage when you rent their home. Your initial conversation with your potential landlord, their attitudes, and even appearance speak volumes as to how they will treat you and your family once you live in the home. As usual, trusting your gut instinct to kick in will always be in your favor, especially in this situation.
A friend of a friend lived in the house and recommends the place. "It’s fine for a rental." The duty station length is short, less than two years, after all. Plus the kids’ school is very close and well regarded. The lease is signed, but oddly there is no walkthrough check list. Hmm, why not? Well it’s all handled by a real estate agent friend of the owner who acts an in-between for renter and owner and he doesn’t think it’s necessary. Nothing is that bad in the house, and he likes things casual, after all. He isn’t paid; just helping out his friend. Of course, you move in and there are issues: old, patched, and leaking plumbing and sewer system with the requisite sky high utility bills that ensue. Not to mention the aesthetics. You will take down the 1970s food laden wallpaper yourself and try to improve the neglected lawn.
Don’t forget the absolute importance of a walkthrough and disengage if there is not one provided. Check overlooked issues such as water pressure, proper toilet flushing, and signs of water damage in the garage. The same applies for a move out checklist. If the previous tenants were held liable for the mess you inherited, you and your family wouldn’t fight the battle to get the deposit check back that you deserve. Also don’t discount the impact of quality of life in a rental of a home just because it’s for a short term. You will dread being there and it can make even the most beautiful of PCS locations miserable.
Rental Property Don’ts
After moving into a less than ideal rental home without the walkthrough inspection, you begin to notice small but nagging problems with the house. The back porch and hall lights don’t work, all of the interior paint is way past due for a refresh, and the turquoise blue master tub spits mildew from the jets regardless of your cleaning attempts. You also notice the sump pump does not work properly, and you have no knowledge as to how to maintain or fix it. You are also well aware the landlord is broke and won’t be of any help in rectifying these issues, so you update and repair as much as you can with your money, just to make the place livable.
Your nights are regularly sleepless due to the troop of raccoons that use your back deck and roof as their personal jungle gym, when the opossums are not hanging out on your windowsill. You also hope your car is not damaged by various overhanging and dangerous tree limbs that inhibit the only parking spaces available where your rental is located. Not to mention the problems that stem from street parking on a busy neighborhood road.
Don’t view a rental as a fixer-upper project for yourself--unless expressly written in your lease, because more than likely you will not be reimbursed--even if the projects are beneficial to the homeowner. You may love the location of the house and its walkability to local amenities, but the time and money commitments are beyond your scope as a renter and not worth the aggravation. Don’t forget to check the safety of your belongings outside of the house. Vandalism, thievery, and damage from wildlife are not necessarily the first items you would consider when choosing a rental home.
Versions of these scenarios are all part of my family’s rental history and we have learned lessons from each of these moves. It’s true that many homeowners hope to rent to military families because of their trustworthy and do-right reputations. Use this as an asset and move past the above mentioned scenarios to find the rental property your family deserves.