What Policyholders Need to Know About Short-Term Leases
Absolutely nothing about moving out of your home while it undergoes repairs is easy or pleasant. Aside from the stress that the catastrophic damage inflicts when it happens, moving out of your home and completely displacing your family is never a straightforward process. But unfortunately, situations arise where it’s necessary to submit a property insurance claim for substantial home damage. When that happens, you’ll need to know a thing or two about short-term rentals.
A short-term rental is a living situation you commit to for 11 months or less. This is usually the best option for people who have been displaced by damage to their home due to wind, water, or fire damage while their home is repaired. But it’s not a simple process, and there are steps to take to protect yourself before you sign on the dotted line.
Understanding Short-Term Rental Agreements
For starters, when you enter into a short-term rental agreement, you sign a short-term lease, which means that it’s a lease designed for higher turnover rentals. In spirit, it’s a very similar document to the one you would sign when you move into any other apartment. There are a few steps for securing a short-term rental that remain the same. But there are differences between standard leases and short-term rental leases that you should be aware of, so here’s a step-by-step guide to understanding leases for short-term rentals so your family won’t stress during a property insurance claim.
1. Start with a Walkthrough
Like with any other rental, you’ll start by walking through the property before you agree to rent the place. The landlord should allow you to inspect every aspect of the property including storage closets, garages, and decks. You should check all of the utilities, test the water, check the heat and air conditioning, and open all the doors, cabinets, and windows. Make a note of any damage for yourself and bring it to the attention of the landlord before moving in. Everyone who will be living on the property should have the chance to inspect it.
2. Prepare for a Credit Check
Once you’ve decided on a property you want to live in, you’ll want to be prepared to have your credit score checked. Not every property will require a credit check. Corporate apartments are typically the best option for policyholders who want to avoid having their credit score checked, or for policyholders who might have difficulties passing a background check. If you’re unsure what the best type of housing is for your situation, ask your TA Housing Coordinator whether or not a credit or background check will be required to rent a property.
3. Talk to your Landlord
Before you move in, you’ll want to talk to your landlord about your situation. All of the normal questions should be covered, including what kind of upkeep you’re responsible for and what (if any) damage you need fixing before you move in. Once you sign the lease, you are responsible for any undocumented damage or whatever terms are outlined in the agreement. You’ll want to discuss any repairs or questions you have before you get the lease agreement.
It might also be worth mentioning to your landlord that it’s possible you will need to extend your lease. If the contractors fixing your home miss a deadline, your family will be delayed in moving back into your home. When this happens, you can try to extend the lease (usually by one month) with the landlord. If you request an extension before the Notice-to-Vacate is due, then 9 out of 10 times the extension will be approved. Notice-to-Vacate terms are usually 30, 45, or 60 days before the end of the lease agreement. Asking if an extension will be completely out of the question right off the bat is a good piece of information to have before you enter into the lease negotiation.
4. Read the Lease
A lease is a legally binding document for both you and your landlord, so you should make sure you understand exactly what is expected of you before you sign. Once the landlord and tenant signatures are present, the contract is legally binding.
Some sections you can expect to see in your lease are:
- A section identifying the Landlord and Tenants
- A section identifying the property
- The rental term
- Rent amount and due date
- Security deposit terms.
- Tenant responsibilities
- Landlord and Tenant Signatures
A few points of the lease to double-check are:
- Check that the rent cost and date of occupancy are the same as what you discussed with your Housing Coordinator. You don’t want to realize after the fact that you agreed to pay more rent in your lease than you discussed initially.
- You’ll need to know what kind of responsibility you have for paying the utilities, depending on your insurance policy and the property you may be responsible for your own utilities.
- Make sure you know if you are responsible for the maintenance of the apartment and outdoor grounds.
- Depending on your policy, you’ll want to know if you are personally responsible for your security deposit, or if it will be covered by your insurance.
- You’ll want to know what kind of options you have if you decide to move out early. What will it cost you? Is it even an option? What happens to your security deposit?
- On the other hand, you’ll want to know what happens if you have the option to renew your lease if it takes longer than expected to rebuild your home. Typically, as long as you ask for an extension before the notice-to-vacate date, it’s okay, but it’s still subject to approval by the landlord.
Be Confident in Your Short-Term Lease Agreement
Before you sign, make sure to ask the landlord for any changes in the lease that seem unfair. If they’re willing to make the change, then you can proceed. If your landlord won’t make the changes, then you’ll need to decide if the issue is important enough to refuse the housing option. Keep in mind that once you sign, you and your landlord are responsible to honor the terms outlined in the document. You will be legally obligated to fulfill all of the terms included. Reading the fine print might be a pain, but it will ensure that you don’t agree with anything you aren’t comfortable with and allow you to protect yourself from an unfair agreement.
Any time you have to submit a property insurance claim, there’s a certain amount of inconvenience that comes with it. Living in a short-term rental isn’t ideal, but it’s worth taking the time and energy before moving in to make sure you cover your bases. The last thing you want is to find out that your temporary situation is causing you just as much trouble as the damage to your home. If you’re looking for more information about temporary housing while your property insurance claim is being processed, you can contact our team. We’d be happy to help you navigate the inconvenience of finding temporary housing and take as much of the stress out of the situation as possible.