Renting your first off-base house or apartment can seem overwhelming, particularly if you’re used to the relatively simple process of showing up and moving into base housing, a barracks, or a BOQ. While moving off base, on your own or with a family, is certainly a much more complicated process, it doesn’t have to be a difficult one. Here are some universally useful pointers and tidbits for anyone looking to rent:
The SCRA is a law that allows you to break a lease without penalty if you’re deploying, PCS-ing, or receive activation orders. Know your rights under it and make sure whoever you rent from knows them too. Most landlords around bases are aware of the SCRA, but it’s smart to make sure before you sign a lease.
2. Property management vs landlord.
A landlord actually owns the building, a management company manages it on behalf of the owner. A landlord who owns large properties or multiple apartment buildings will usually hire a company to oversee them. It might not make a big difference in your life, but it’s worth knowing your building’s ownership structure.
3. Get everything in writing.
Simple and good advice in any legally binding situation, especially one with a lot of money on the table.
4. Repairs aren’t your responsibility, but don’t wreck the place.
An upside of renting is that the landlord is responsible for all necessary upkeep and repairs to the property. That said, you should do your best to take good care of it if you want your security deposit back.
5. Renter’s insurance.
This is usually a fairly cheap service offered by most insurance providers that covers your personal items in case of damage or theft. Definitely a smart thing for any renter to have.
6. Shop around.
Unless you immediately stumble upon an absolute dream of a rental property for the perfect price, don’t snap up the first listing you come across. As with any major expenditure in life, take your time and be sure you’ve found your best option. It may not seem like you’ll be there long in the grand scheme of things, but 3-4 years in a home you end up hating can feel like an eternity.
7. Learn the lay of the land.
Are there important amenities in walking/driving distance of your potential rental? How far are you from base? Would you rather be closer? Or farther? What’s the neighborhood itself like? Factors like these will affect how happy you are with your living situation as much (if not more) as the quality of your home.
8. Month-to-month can be an option.
If you’re renting for a particularly short period or are unsure just how long you’ll need a place to live (if you’re awaiting PCS orders after returning from a deployment, for example) this may be your best, simplest option.
9. Maintain a good relationship with your landlord.
It never hurts to be on good terms with the person in charge of taking your rent and keeping your plumbing in working order. Being on friendly terms with your landlord or property manager will make your life as a renter as smooth as possible.
10. Get advice.
When doing something new it’s always a good idea to ask around for guidance and suggestions. Start with whatever resources your unit and/or base may provide. If you can, get a lawyer to look over your lease agreement before you sign. Talk to coworkers and friends who’ve rented in the area before or are currently renting. And the Internet is always there with plenty of tips and firsthand accounts to consider.
These certainly don’t cover everything you’ll need to get that lease signed and your bags unpacked, but they’re definitely worth knowing before tackling the rental process. Next thing you know, you’ll be out of the barracks and savoring some newfound freedom and privacy during your nights and weekends. Enjoy.