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Guide to Renting to Military Tenants

November 8, 2021

Are you looking for new renters and thinking of extending a lease to military tenants? We salute you! However, you need to know what to expect when you enter into a lease with military personnel. Here's where to start.

How Do I Rent to Military Tenants?

Renting to military tenants can be beneficial for your property management business and offer more reliability. However, it does require a different strategy than renting to traditional tenants. Legally, military personnel are not responsible for the financial burden of breaking a lease due to a deployment or change in orders that involve a relocation.

1. Make Your Lease Military-Friendly

Before you finalize your lease details, make sure it's military-friendly. Military personnel need accommodations for deployments and flexibility. In some cases, they will have noticed before deployment, though they may only have days or weeks before relocating.

Change the lease length or terms to accommodate deployments and make your apartment as military-friendly as possible.

2. Change Your Rental Price

Landlords who want to attract military renters need to accept Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) stipends as payment. The BAH depends on the location, local cost of rent, personnel pay grade, and whether or not they have dependents.

If you require renters insurance for your tenants, keep in mind that BAH does not cover it. You may want to include it as part of your lease agreement or adjust the rent slightly to ensure your military renter can pay for it.

3. Provide Military Perks

Military perks are attractive to renters looking for a good deal for off-base housing. Offer a military discount on your listing and consider waiving other costs like security deposits, cleaning fees, and application fees.

Are You Legally Required to Rent to Military Members?

Depending on your rental property's location, you can legally refuse a military member a lease if you decide it isn't suitable for your rental business.

The federal government does not consider military status a protected class under the Fair Housing Act. If you are worried about the potential loss of income due to deployments or a change in their orders that could suddenly impose relocation, you can refuse to rent to a military member.

However, some local and state laws may have different stipulations. Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Washington currently have fair housing protection based on military or veteran status. Before denying a lease, it's best to check with your state laws.

Disabled veterans are protected under fair housing laws, and you cannot refuse to rent to them due to their disability.

Things to Consider When Renting to Military Tenants

Renting to military tenants comes with its own set of pros and cons. Here's what to know before you sign your next renter.

Reliable Income

Military personnel typically enjoy reliable income and job security. Their promotions and incremental raises are usually more predictable than other industries. The addition of a Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) stipend also makes your rental payments more secure.

You Can Participate in the Military Housing Rental Program

Service members enjoy access to a Rental Partnership Program (RPP) in an agreement with the Housing Service Center (HSC). The program provides military members with affordable off-base housing and aid in reducing some costs associated with relocation.

Have a Large Network to Tap into For Future Renters

Military members have a large built-in network of potential renters. When you need to line up new tenants, ask if their military connections have recommendations or could spread the word about vacant units.

Military Members Undergo a Thorough Background Check

Anyone who wants to join the military goes through an FBI background check at federal, state, and local levels. However, criminal records don't always disqualify someone from joining the military. A serious felony or five misdemeanor offenses are usually disqualifiers for the military, while some misdemeanor offenses like domestic violence are automatic rejection.

Military background checks also look at potential money problems, including histories of bankruptcies or defaulted loans. The military will even look over social media accounts to ensure the prospective military members are not a threat to national security.

Despite the benefit of an in-depth military background check, landlords should still perform their own. There may be financial issues or areas that are a deal-breaker for you and your rental business.

You Can Develop a Tight-Knit Apartment Complex Community

If you have multiple rental properties and apartments available, you can create a tight-knit community by renting to military members. These tenants are uniquely adaptable to meeting new people, having each other's backs, and fostering a sense of belonging.

May Move Abruptly

One of the biggest disadvantages to renting to military members is the risk they'll suddenly need to move or deploy. They often don't receive much notice and are expected to move quickly. Service members are also protected by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA).

The protection covers active-duty members and prevents landlords from evicting unless the rent is higher than a predetermined amount. In 2021, that amount is $4,089.62, but it changes yearly. One can stop a foreclosure without a court order, and the landlord cannot keep the tenant's belongings or storage area without a court order.

In addition to SCRA, local laws may also prevent you from taking action if a military member breaks their lease. However, landlords can ask for proof of deployment or relocation orders before allowing service members to break their lease without financial repercussions.

May Not Be Long Term Tenants

Military tenants aren't usually long-term. Even without deployments, military members tend to move around for their work. Although their finances are more secure, their location stability is not.

Landlords must factor in the costs associated with cleaning, prepping, and updating their apartments more often when renting to military tenants.

Final Thoughts

Renting to military members has its pros and cons. However, landlords may feel it's their patriotic duty to welcome service members to their rental properties.

We may be apartment experts, but we're not the final authority on renting to military members. Look to military.com to thoroughly understand military housing benefits, and consult with a lawyer when drafting your new lease terms.

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AUTHOR
Susan Finch is a freelance writer and content manager focusing on local experiences, travel, and anything relating to really good food and craft brews. Her work has appeared in travel guidebooks and national magazines and newspapers. Read More
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