Renting to Military

17 Replies

Question: Has anyone else had significant problems with military tenants?

The story: First off, I am as red blooded as one can get, I love my country and my military. I served ten years in the Army, during which I spent 3 years deployed and was medically discharged in 2010. When I was exiting the military, I was also dating a wonderful woman.


She and I decided to start a family, and the house that i purchased before we were married (3 bedroom, 2 bath, SFR) was no longer sufficient when we were ready with child number 3! So, we went through the very fun/stressful times of getting another loan approval for a larger house under my VA loan (yes, you can buy more than one home with your VA). So, we purchased a 4 bedroom, 3 bath SFR with about 1300 more square feet and some acreage. How did we do this with a home we already owned? Of course, we had to rent it out! So, we listed it (our real estate agent listed it) and within days we had multiple offers.


We were going to manage this property ourselves and selected a military tenant. He didn't have the best credit, but for his pay grade and the cost of living around the base (this is San Antonio, TX), the numbers matched, so we went ahead and signed a lease with him. He paid the security deposit, pet deposit, and the first months rent right there on the spot, so everything seemed like it was working out.

We started the lease in November 2012, which was stressful enough, however, the lease took us through December 2013 so we figured this was no big deal. We would renew the lease and there wouldn't be any problems. The house was built in 2009 and there were no deficiencies noted to we were all in at this point. So....after my recent research on BiggerPockets, I've seen the error of my ways! I have nothing but love for our military, but when my military tenant uses the military as his excuse for missing his rent payments, I started to worry. I served myself, and I know that since 2001 I was paid on the 1st and 15th every month without any problems for ten years.

**This was/is our first rental by the way**

Our military tenant was sometimes 3, 5 14 days late with his rent payment. Some months we showed empathy for him, and didn't charge late payments. This allowed for more late rent payments, without any notice. We called him, sent letters, texted, emailed, tried every means of communication we could. We told him that we just needed to hear from him, let us know what was going on and we would support him, and rarely (or never) got a response until he paid. Then, he would send a small text saying something like "sorry, military paid late this month". He would blame it on Congress, Obama, etc. Don't get me wrong, I do NOT like Obama, and would like nothing more than to blame every problem I have or had on the Regime. However, this was not the case, I am a Federal employee, and know that no matter what, Congress would pay our military before paying us, so no way did they screw up their pay. That stuff would make the news anyways.

Regardless,. it was a bad situation, so come November, we sent a letter notifying him that we would NOT be renewing his lease. He and his new fiance (nope, he didn't provide her information) didn't protest, they moved out. We had about 14 days to get the house rent ready. This time, we hired a property manager in the area that was/is actually pretty easy to work with. We aren't making any money, but, we aren't dealing with a bad tenant now either. We thought this would be easy, lets get the make ready knocked out and get a tenant.

Well, the first time we walked the property after this guy left was with our new property manager. We walked in the door and were blown away with the number of little pin holes in the walls. We had to spend 2 days patching tiny holes, then painted the whole house. After that, we had to replace the master bedroom door (which he or someone punched a hole through). We had the carpets shampooed twice, cut the grass and found a year's worth of dog poop and cigarette butts, and scrubbed the garage so it didn't smell like smoke. All in all, this was exhausting, and a very good lesson for us!

This experience actually pushed me to start researching property management and real estate investing (and those AWESOME podcasts). I know we made pretty much every mistake in the book here, and we learned from it. This hasn't deterred us from renting to military, we want to acquire more properties in the area and provide great homes for our service men and women to live in while they serve in San Antonio. This experience however, has taught us MANY valuable lessons in renting/leasing.

The most important factor here is, yes, we love our military, but, remember, they are people just like anyone else. They get paid housing allowances. Know the going rate for your area, and build a relationship with the base/post housing office. They can tell you whether or not military got paid. Also, they can be a pretty good resource when looking to invest outside a military installation. Many soldiers/sailors/airmen look to the housing office for available housing off-post.

Sorry for the long drawn out email, but back to the original topic/question: Has anyone else had significant problems with military tenants? And, how did you deal with those problems?

generally around here their commanding officer will "lean" on them a bit if you let him/her know the tenant is paying late. Didn't work this last time. He was given a dishonorble discharge for deriliction of duty so no dice for us.

As a 24 year military man, still in, and a property manager I would recommend when you decide to rent to a military person that you get his/her unit phone number/contact info. Then call it later before he/she moves in to verify it's his/her unit. Most of the time it's safe to rent to a military person or family but there are many military people who have never rented a home before or will cause some damage due to negligence or inexperience.

Obviously military people can move between units, even on the same post, but it helps to at least have a starting point.

I've been in for 14 years and have had a few military renters. I would say there is nothing special about us nor should there be. Treat a military person like you would any other tenant.

Many military members want to rent to other military members, but I think this is just a familiarity issue. It used to be that people were trained to the standard of living in base housing where you had to do a full make ready just to get checked out including a seriously overpriced cleaning person. With privatization, this is not the case anymore. Newer troops don't have that same experience. Hold them accountable and stick to your process.

I don't even hear about commanders leaning on their people anymore over these issues.

I do like renting to contractors. They don't seem to move as much. I've got one in @David Hutson 's area that is finishing their third year of pain free renting, and they want to stay. I like that.

@Joseph Heath

Take the military factor out of your senerino and what do you have, a dud tenant who disrespected your property and lied to you. I agree with @Paul Wurster , military tenants should be treated like any other tenant regarding the due date, property condition/upkeep, etc. Take the emotion out of it. Don't be jaded toward tenants who happen to be military.

@Paul Wurster you have some good points, I remember those days and definitely see that attitude toward dwellings almost nonexistent now in the military. I see where I screwed up here, and @Joe G. Hit the nail on the head, I didn't treat this as a business transaction, I shouldn't have allowed the leniency.

No two people are alike, I wouldn't let one bad tenant put me off from renting to military. My current tenant is military as well and so far pays every month on time and is keeping the house up as if it was her own.

I chalk this up to experience :) I knew nothing about renting and learned many lessons with my first lease. I like the San Antonio area, and I plan on investing in more properties close to the military bases here. Finding a prospective tenants has not been difficult at all. I hope to learn more and by the time this contract is up maybe I'll be able to manage the property correctly.

@Joseph Heath , what base are you buying close to?

You might want to make sure that the houses where you are buying would survive without the military there. I don't think Lackland or Randolph are going away, but HUGE cuts are coming. This is a problem that I'm contemplating just North of Sacramento outside of Beale AFB. I have a great house with a long term tenant who has been perfection since day one. However, I think the base is going to downsize in personnel. It won't ever go away, but the amount of people stationed there might drop.

@Paul Wurster I've been looking around Randolph AFB and Ft Sam Houston mostly. I don't have much faith in the area around Lackland. I was looking at the areas that could attract more than just military though. Don't want to depend solely on one market. My current rental is about five minutes from Randolph and each time it's gone up for a new lease we had multiple applicants within a day or two so the area is good.....today. Who knows how it will look in five or ten years. The military draw down will hurt more than just the rental market for sure.

@Joseph Heath

Since we own in mostly military towns they are our bread and butter. The nice thing about military is that they have security clearances. Therefore we tell everyone that before we go to the courts we will get command involved. It has never come that far, but it is a nice protection.

I also find that typically they stay for 1-3 years, often 3. While there are the bad apples, personally I find them great. We also have a 13 page lease that goes over everything. I like to be very specific.

Elizabeth can I get a copy of your lease? Pretty please. .

Being military myself, going on 9 years on active duty, I would never give my unit information to anyone who doesn't need it. It's not that I'm a deadbeat but why should I be treated differently than any other tenant? Would you call up a guy's manager at Wal Mart and tell him he's not paying his rent? NO! Contrary to popular belief, commanders don't have the authority to "command" a military member pay their bills. This might affect security clearances, ect but at the end of the day it's still a civil matter. Most pay out of embarrassment or being labeled a POS. I get so tired of people attempting to pull bully tactics such as "give me your unit information or I won't rent to you" with military members. I'm sure there would be other people out there more than happy to take my money.

@Shawn Dandridge I wouldn't say this is treating military differently than most other tenants. For any tenant, they usually have to submit this type of information on their application for verification of employment. It may be true, commanders dont have the authority to order their troops to pay their bills however, I now know that I can take a claim to the post finance office or provost marshal who will usually help with settling the claim.

I served 10 years active duty and I did see people who were labled as you put because they were unable to manage their finances. For the most part, those individuals were provided assistance (education) so they could better handle their money and financial responsibilities. My mistake as a landlord was empathy.

I apologize if this is considered bullying tactics, I suppose the alternative would be strictly following the "due on the first, late on the 3rd, evict on the 5th" mantra. What I've learned from this experience is, whether the tenant is military or civilian, the rules apply equally. One of my biggest mistakes in this situation was allowing leniency with my military tenant. In this case, I welcomed him to do as you stated; take his money elsewhere.

@Shawn Dandridge.  I hate to break your bubble, but Article 134, Paragraph 60 (Debt, dishonorably failing to pay) does give the commander authority to "command" military personnel under their authority to fulfill their financial commitments.  Failure to do so can result in a maximum penalty of bad conduct discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances and confinement for up to 6 months.  

@Ronald Morgan  I think Shawn is making a point here.  While you are correct about command authority, it is not a very common practice today.  

I have actually used this within the last two years on a guy who was not upholding his divorce terms.  However, it was effecting several different aspects of his work life and former spouse's life.  He was an officer, and our intent was to not let him drift into dirtbag territory so we used a Letter of Counseling to start this process and hopefully end it at the same time.  It did.  

My original advice was to treat them like a normal tennant if you can and not to give too much slack or expect exceptionally quick action just because they were military.  I think the best thing about military renters is stable employment.  Hopefully, that won't change.  

I've been in for 18 years.  The days of the CO forcing members to pay disappeared a long time ago.  Today, someone in a leadership position will tell them to pay their obligation.  If the owner of that obligation continues to contact the command, the command will eventually say it's a civil matter.  If I get contacted, I usually tell them I will speak to the member and I do.  If they contact me again, I tell them I don't care and take the member to court.  We have been drawn down too much to spend time on that stuff.  I will help the service member get financially figured out long before I will help the individual calling to complain.  The complaint is a symptom of something going on and I am more concerned about curing the problem then I am helping someone he/she owes money too.

Originally posted by @Joseph Heath :

Question: Has anyone else had significant problems with military tenants?

The story: First off, I am as red blooded as one can get, I love my country and my military. I served ten years in the Army, during which I spent 3 years deployed and was medically discharged in 2010. When I was exiting the military, I was also dating a wonderful woman.


She and I decided to start a family, and the house that i purchased before we were married (3 bedroom, 2 bath, SFR) was no longer sufficient when we were ready with child number 3! So, we went through the very fun/stressful times of getting another loan approval for a larger house under my VA loan (yes, you can buy more than one home with your VA). So, we purchased a 4 bedroom, 3 bath SFR with about 1300 more square feet and some acreage. How did we do this with a home we already owned? Of course, we had to rent it out! So, we listed it (our real estate agent listed it) and within days we had multiple offers.


We were going to manage this property ourselves and selected a military tenant. He didn't have the best credit, but for his pay grade and the cost of living around the base (this is San Antonio, TX), the numbers matched, so we went ahead and signed a lease with him. He paid the security deposit, pet deposit, and the first months rent right there on the spot, so everything seemed like it was working out.

We started the lease in November 2012, which was stressful enough, however, the lease took us through December 2013 so we figured this was no big deal. We would renew the lease and there wouldn't be any problems. The house was built in 2009 and there were no deficiencies noted to we were all in at this point. So....after my recent research on BiggerPockets, I've seen the error of my ways! I have nothing but love for our military, but when my military tenant uses the military as his excuse for missing his rent payments, I started to worry. I served myself, and I know that since 2001 I was paid on the 1st and 15th every month without any problems for ten years.

**This was/is our first rental by the way**

Our military tenant was sometimes 3, 5 14 days late with his rent payment. Some months we showed empathy for him, and didn't charge late payments. This allowed for more late rent payments, without any notice. We called him, sent letters, texted, emailed, tried every means of communication we could. We told him that we just needed to hear from him, let us know what was going on and we would support him, and rarely (or never) got a response until he paid. Then, he would send a small text saying something like "sorry, military paid late this month". He would blame it on Congress, Obama, etc. Don't get me wrong, I do NOT like Obama, and would like nothing more than to blame every problem I have or had on the Regime. However, this was not the case, I am a Federal employee, and know that no matter what, Congress would pay our military before paying us, so no way did they screw up their pay. That stuff would make the news anyways.

Regardless,. it was a bad situation, so come November, we sent a letter notifying him that we would NOT be renewing his lease. He and his new fiance (nope, he didn't provide her information) didn't protest, they moved out. We had about 14 days to get the house rent ready. This time, we hired a property manager in the area that was/is actually pretty easy to work with. We aren't making any money, but, we aren't dealing with a bad tenant now either. We thought this would be easy, lets get the make ready knocked out and get a tenant.

Well, the first time we walked the property after this guy left was with our new property manager. We walked in the door and were blown away with the number of little pin holes in the walls. We had to spend 2 days patching tiny holes, then painted the whole house. After that, we had to replace the master bedroom door (which he or someone punched a hole through). We had the carpets shampooed twice, cut the grass and found a year's worth of dog poop and cigarette butts, and scrubbed the garage so it didn't smell like smoke. All in all, this was exhausting, and a very good lesson for us!

This experience actually pushed me to start researching property management and real estate investing (and those AWESOME podcasts). I know we made pretty much every mistake in the book here, and we learned from it. This hasn't deterred us from renting to military, we want to acquire more properties in the area and provide great homes for our service men and women to live in while they serve in San Antonio. This experience however, has taught us MANY valuable lessons in renting/leasing.

The most important factor here is, yes, we love our military, but, remember, they are people just like anyone else. They get paid housing allowances. Know the going rate for your area, and build a relationship with the base/post housing office. They can tell you whether or not military got paid. Also, they can be a pretty good resource when looking to invest outside a military installation. Many soldiers/sailors/airmen look to the housing office for available housing off-post.

Sorry for the long drawn out email, but back to the original topic/question: Has anyone else had significant problems with military tenants? And, how did you deal with those problems?

 Your post was spot on and answered a lot of questions that I had about renting to the military. As you said, they are human as well. It is best for us to do our due diligence and tenant screen thoroughly! 

So someone please explain how contacting a CO about late or missed rent payments is not a violation of FCRA. If you contacted the employer of a civilian over that, you would get dragged into court in a heartbeat.

For those that have issues with military renters and aren't having luck with commanders, you have the inspector general office on each installation where you can file a complaint. Also the installations have legal offices which can provide advice.

If you do evict the kid, remember the military property belongs to the government so if you lose it, you could find yourself responsible for it. The commander should be your first stop though so you can show you ate trying to keep it at the lowest level. 

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