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Renting in the Military

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renting tipsMoving in the military holds it’s own problems and stresses. From the frequency to unpacking – never-mind trying to find somewhere to live once you get there.

Moving to Ft. Bliss held a lot of challenges for us. We had never been here, and with 3 weeks notice we weren’t able to visit before. Sam and I drove down while a truck hauled our stuff. We hadn’t had time to have the military move us so we did it all ourselves.

The base informed us before we moved that their waiting list for on base housing was a year and a half. So obviously we needed somewhere to live out in town. Living in a Best Western with 3 cats and a 2 year old for 10 days in 108* wasn’t what we had in mind, but we didn’t have a choice. Everyday we called realtors who were helping the landlords rent out homes, and went to look at dozens.

From the Marines and then the Army, we’ve learned to look very carefully over rental contracts. There are often clauses that cause us to get in financial trouble we can’t get out of when we have to go. Even moving to Ft. Bliss meant breaking our lease and because of a clause, we had to pay 2 months worth instead of 1.

Base housing usually will help with finding a home. They let us know where we didn’t want to live, apartments they approved, and apartments that were blacklisted. They can help you read over a lease and determine if it’s one you should be signing. Often an NCO might ask soldiers to bring in a new lease for him to look over as well, making sure all the rules are being followed and the soldier isn’t being taken advantage of.

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) allows a lease to be legally broken for very specific reasons. Active duty service members can terminate a lease with Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders or deployments that are over 90 days. You can also break a lease if you join the military during that time and have to PCS. However, you must realize that you owe through the next 30 day rental period. So giving notice of termination on June 2nd means you have to pay through July – regardless of whether or not you’ll be living there.

Give notice as early as you can once you get orders. We learned this the hard way, and ended up paying double rent because Sam’s orders were so late to get to us.

Be sure to look at pet rules, the deposit amount and rules to get it back. Ask what happens if your spouse deploys and you want to leave to go back home as well. Note as well that the majority of landlords will not let you out of a lease because you are accepted onto base housing, and the military usually will not move you on. This means you’ll break a lease, owe the termination fees, and pay for moving costs. Check to see if you can do a month to month or short term lease if this is your plan for the long run.

What are your tips for renting?