Short-Term vs. Long-Term Lease: What’s Best for Me?

Author: Megan Bullock


As you’re searching for a new apartment, you’ll need to consider the possible lease lengths (how long you’ll be renting the apartment) to decide what’s best for you. Depending on the apartment’s management, you’ll either find long-term lease options or a mix of long-term and short-term leases. It’s all up to the landlord or property manager! First, let’s discuss what these lease terms mean and how they’ll affect your rental journey.


What is a short-term lease?


Typically, a short-term lease refers to an apartment rental agreement with a duration of six months or less, but any lease that lasts for less than a year is technically “short-term.” Short-term rentals are most common in areas with high demand and a lower supply of rental properties. For instance, New York City is known for its ever-growing population and higher-than-average monthly rent, so you’ll often find short-term leases available in NYC and similar areas such as Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, etc. While some cities will only offer short-term rental agreements in monthly increments, such as three-month, six-month, or nine-month leases, cities like Atlanta that have an abundance of rental properties offer almost any lease length term (depending on the apartment), such as five-month, eight-month, or eleven-month.

A popular short-term lease length to consider is referred to as month-to-month. Renting month-to-month means that after one month’s time, you can either sign another month-long lease or inform the landlord or property manager that you do not intend to renew your lease. If you don’t plan to renew your lease agreement for another month, you will need to inform the landlord with a notice to vacate ahead of time – usually about 30 days prior to your lease’s end. This means that when you are signing a lease renewal, you will need to know whether you are staying for another month’s time in order to notify your landlord enough in advance.


Pros of a short-term lease


If you’re a frequent traveler, then a short-term lease is a great option for you. Maybe you work in a field where your job requires you to move every few months. Rather than living in corporate housing, you can rent an apartment on a month-to-month basis, or you can sign a three- or six-month lease, depending on how long you plan to stay in one area. A short-term lease is best for people who are unsure if they can make a year-long commitment to living in one place.

If you’re debating whether a short-term lease is right for you, consider these pros:

  • Flexibility: In a short-term lease, flexibility is key. If you need an apartment rental that has the same flexibility as your lifestyle, then you should consider signing a short-term lease with the convenience of being able to move whenever you want. If you enjoy not being tied down to a year-long commitment, then you don’t have to put down roots! Just sign a short-term lease instead.
  • Time to Adjust: Say you’ve just moved to a city and aren’t familiar with the area. You may not want to sign a long-term lease without really knowing what part of the city you want to live in! Signing a short-term lease will allow you the time to decide what and where your perfect apartment is – whether it’s the one you’re currently living in or another one across town.


Cons of a short-term lease


If you enjoy being on the go, never being tied down to a home or long-term apartment, then it’s likely you’ll love living month-to-month! However, money-wise, a short-term lease may not be as budget-friendly as a long-term lease. If you’re on a strict budget, you might want to consider the cons of short-term leasing:

  • More Expensive Rent: Because short-term rental agreements provide less stability and more vulnerability for landlords or property managers, they often charge more for short-term leases, so as a renter, your monthly rent will be higher.
  • Frequent Changes in Your Lease: If you’re renting month-to-month, you can expect possible sudden increases in rent after each period. Your landlord cannot change your rent throughout your lease, but because you sign a new lease every month (or every few months), your rent is not definite and can change in a month’s notice.


What is a long-term lease?


A long-term lease is an apartment rental agreement with a duration of 12 months or more. Typically, a long-term lease is considered a year-long agreement, but there are 13-month, 15-month, and longer lease lengths available depending on the city, apartment, and landlord! Landlords and property managers typically prefer longer apartment leases. This way, they can keep tenants living in the property for a longer period of time without having to worry about finding a new tenant to fill the unit. This provides the landlord with more security and stability – a guaranteed check coming every month for one year or longer.


Pros of a long-term lease


Maybe you enjoy the flexibility of renting an apartment rather than buying a home, but you still plan to live in the same area for at least a year. Then sign a long-term lease! It’s still more flexible than buying a home, and there are plenty of perks that come with it:

  • Apartment Personalization: With a 12-month or longer lease, you’ll have more time to make your apartment feel like a home. You can furnish and decorate it to make it as homey as possible since you know you’ll be there awhile. It’ll make you feel as if you’re in a home while still having maintenance to help you out and no commitment to the apartment past the length of your lease.
  • Less Moving Around: If you dislike moving (don’t we all?), then long-term leases are great. Signing a year-long lease or even longer means the more time you have before you have to move again, and if you have heavy furniture or a hefty amount of belongings, then moving is definitely a hassle you’ll want to avoid for a bit.


Cons of a long-term lease


If you’re not a fan of commitment or additional fees, then here are some cons you need to consider for a long-term lease:

  • A Longer Commitment: It’s long. Yep, that’s it. A long-term lease means that you have to stay put in this rental for at least 12 months (or however much longer you signed for).
  • Consequences of Breaking the Lease: If you decide that you need to move before your lease is up, you’ll have to pay rent and move-in fees at your new place plus the monthly rent for your old apartment – or, you can risk breaking your lease and paying a hefty fine associated with it. Either way, it’s not great for your bank account.


Both short-term and long-term leases are wonderful options for renters – it just depends on your preference. Take some time to ponder the pros and cons of each apartment lease length, and you’ll be sure to decide what’s best for you. Happy hunting!