Are year-long rental leases on the way out?

Finding affordable apartments is tough in Los Angeles, especially with its 2.7 percent vacancy rate.
Finding affordable apartments is tough in Los Angeles, especially with its 2.7 percent vacancy rate.
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Los Angeles rental listings site RadPad has added short-term rentals as an option for tenants and landlords.

Traditionally, the site focused on long-term rentals and was primarily in competition with sites like Craigslist and West Side rentals. Now, it joins sites like Airbnb, VRBO and Home Away, in offering homes and apartments for short periods of time.

But, RadPad CEO Jonathan Eppers tells KPCC the short-term listings on the site won't be as short as one day. Rather they'll list week-to-week and month-to-month stays.

"It's one of the biggest requests we've got... [renters] want more month-to-month options. They want more flexible leasing options." 

USC's Raphael Bostic said he sees a trend in renters wanting more flexibility in leasing arrangements.

"Why do we have such a very structured lease setup? You don't see the three month lease. You don't see the five year lease for that matter. And part of it I think has been conventional wisdom. Part of it's been technology challenges," he said. "So I think what's happening is that we're learning about the market because of these disruptive technologies, and it's leading to the emergence of a whole host of new relationships."

Eppers said his site has been getting feedback from landlords as well. When RadPad wasn't offering the short-term option, landlords were pulling some of their listings and putting them on sites like Airbnb.

"Things I've been hearing more and more over the last year and a half is like, 'Hey, I’m trying short-term rentals... and I’m finding that I can make 30 to 40 percent more a month on short-term,'" he said.

Landlords do stand to make more money, but the management of short-term units is a lot harder said Bostic.

"One of the reasons why you have the longer lease is because that provides certainty for the landlord that the unit is going to be occupied," he said.

Housing advocates argue that longer leases provide security for renters too. With more and more property being taken off the traditional rental market, it means fewer options for residents who need a long-term place to live. Currently L.A.'s vacancy rate is just 2.7 percent. That lack of supply continues to mean high rental prices – some of the highest in the country.

Bostic points out that units rented out for the short-term are at the mercy of price fluctuations in the marketplace. But in a place like L.A., landlords don't have to worry much about the prices going down.