Renter Guides

Short term rentals: what they are and where to find them

Need flexibility? Short term rentals might be the answer.

Life doesn’t always fit into neat, 12-month increments. Whatever your reasons, short term rentals offer flexibility and might be your next right move. But they don’t always work exactly like traditional rentals, so here’s what you need to know about short term rentals.

What is a short term rental?

A short term rental is an apartment or other rental property with a lease shorter than a traditional 12-month lease—often six months or less. The flexibility short term rentals offer is often offset by higher rental rates or other unique lease features, like automatically renewing at the end of each lease cycle (common with month-to-month leases).

Here’s how to find a short term rental:

  1. 1. Filter your rental search.

    When you’re apartment searching, you can search specifically for short term rentals. On Trulia, just type “short term rental” into the “More” search filter. Other search terms that can be helpful to try are “corporate housing” or “furnished apartments” as well as “month-to-month lease.”

    You can also work with a licensed real estate agent who specializes in short-term rentals or use a short-term rental agency.

  2. 2. Decide which amenities matter.

    Living in an apartment for three months is very different than living there for a year or more. Your calculations on how much you’re willing to spend on certain amenities may be different. Rather than paying to move a bunch of furniture in and out again, it may be smarter to just rent a furnished place. If you’re living somewhere month-to-month while you decide if a new city is right for you, paying for a place near your work with utilities included and a gym could save you from having to sign up for services you’re not ready to commit to.

  3. 3. Look into the place’s legal status.

    Since the rise of online vacation rental sites, there has been pushback from residents in some communities. Some places have passed ordinances regulating short term rentals, that define rules for things like noise, trash, and parking—and fines for non-compliance. And in some places, the rules are even more restrictive. In New York City, whole-apartment rentals of less than 30 days are illegal, and many apartments are co-ops, which are not permitted to offer short-term leases.

    Before renting, make sure to do a little research. Find out what the local rules are for short term rentals, and make sure the place you’d like to live complies. Knowing the local laws can also help you spot a rental scam.

  4. 4. Adjust your budget for a short term rental lease.

    Like any other rental, you should be prepared for a credit check, provide references, and to pay a security deposit, cleaning fees, and first and last month’s rent up-front. While those are typical experiences when renting an apartment, doing them all every month, three months, or six months adds up. Make sure your budget is ready for the change.

    Also, prepare your budget for higher monthly rents than you may be used to with longer-term rentals. Short term rentals might include additional fees, since you’re not committing to a longer-term lease. These are things to consider when deciding how much rent you can afford.

    One more thing to work into your budget: flexibility. When the least on a short term rental expires, a landlord can change the terms of the lease. So if you decide to stay, check in advance to be prepared for any changes, like a rental increase.

    If short term rentals are on one end of the spectrum of different types of rentals, on the other end is rent controlled apartments. Check out our guide on rent control to learn all about them.

    1 As of this writing, April, 2019.