When you're searching for a place to stay for a few months, you know you're not looking for a long-term lease. But do you know what type of lease you are looking for?

While some people use the terms short-term lease and mid-term lease interchangeably, the truth is that these two types of rentals have quite a few differences. Here's what you need to know about these two types of housing options.

First, the Similarities

Before we dive into the differences, let's explore some of the commonalities between these two types of rentals. First, both allow renters to live in a place without signing a year-long lease. Both provide tenants with temporary housing and remove some of the fear of committing. Consequently, they're popular with groups of people such as those moving to a new city like San Francisco and traveling professionals looking for corporate housing.

Furnished short term mid term rental
Both short-term and mid-term rentals are typically furnished. | Photo credit: Dan Gold

Another common trait is that they're both typically fully furnished apartments. This removes the hassles and costs associated with moving or buying furniture.

The Obvious Difference

Now, onto the differences. You've probably figured this one out, but one of the main differences is the length of each lease term. While both are shorter than the standard year lease, the specific time periods differ.

Short-term housing: 1-30 days

While some people refer to leases that are 2-4 months as short-term leases, the legal definition of a "short term rental" is a property that is rented for 30 days or less. Due to concerns about pricing out local residents and disrupting local hotel businesses, many cities are requiring hosts to register these short-term rentals and pay extra taxes.

Some cities are even banning these rentals completely. For example, in New York City it's illegal to rent out a full apartment for less than 30 days. So, before you try to rent out a place for a few weeks, make sure you're not breaking the law.

Not surprisingly, these new laws and regulations have decreased the number of true "short-term rentals." However, there are still a lot of short-term rental properties available if you know where to look. Some popular sites include Airbnb, VRBO, and HomeAway.

Mid-term housing: 1-12 months

Mid-term leases refer to lease terms of 1-12 months, but often last 3-9 months. Since they do not legally count as "short term rentals," owners are not required to pay the taxes associated with short-term leases. Mid-term leases are perfect for people who want to live in an area for a while but want a shorter lease than the typical year-long lease.

To make things a little confusing, mid-term leases may be described and marketed as short-term apartment leases. When you're looking at apartments for rent, make sure you know the true time period of the lease before you become a new tenant. Popular sites include , Craigslist, and Facebook Marketplace.


Short-term leases tend to have higher per-day rent, and they may charge rent by the day, week, or month. Often, the full amount is owed upon booking or securing the rental. Mid-term leases have lower per-day rent and typically charge rent by the month.

Another difference is that short leases don't always require security deposits, but they may charge a hefty security fee, booking fee, and/or cleaning fee.

Targeted Renters

The short-term rental target market is vacationers and travelers. These rentals include a variety of housing options from studio apartments in New York to 15-bedroom vacation rentals on the Florida Gulf.

Short term vacationers at the beach
Short-term rentals target vacationers and travelers like these folks. | Photo credit: Vidar Nordli-Mathisen

Mid-term rentals tend to target traveling professionals, people looking to move to a new area, and students completing internships. These people know they'll be in an area for a substantial amount of time, yet they don't want to commit to a 12-month lease or pay the higher rents associated with shorter leases.

Lease Options and Details

Short-term rentals don't usually come with standard lease agreements. Instead, they may only have a rental agreement outlining factors such as check-in times, house rules, and how to contact the property owner.

Mid-term rentals come with formal lease agreements outlining the length of the lease, the price of rent, when rent is due, and any property rules.

Mid-term leases follow one of two main formats: month-to-month or fixed-term.

Month-to-month leases

With this type of lease, your lease renews each month until you decide to move or until your landlord asks you to leave. The regulations regarding how much notice each party must give vary by state. While this model is great for its flexibility, rent increases are possible each month and you never know when you'll be asked to leave. Monthly rent with this type of lease tends to be higher than with fix-term leases.

Although this type of lease doesn't have a stated rental term, it is not considered a short-term rental. You don't get a new lease each month; your old lease just renews.

Fixed-term leases

If you know your move in and move out dates, fixed-term leases make sense since they include a start and end date. While they do not offer the flexibility of month-to-month leases, they do come with fixed rates and lower rent.

What About Tenants' Rights?

While tenants' rights aren't always on the list of rentals' FAQs, they should be! Since the rental period for short-term leases is less than 30 days, renters are not protected by tenants' rights. For example, this means that the owner can access the property at any time, even unannounced.

Rental apartment old school heater
Tenants' rights ensure that landlords keep heat in working order. | Photo credit: GRÆS Magazine

Since mid-term rentals are longer than 30 days, renters are protected by tenants' rights. These ensure that your landlord/host keeps your rental safe to live in, your landlord/host makes any vital repairs, and you're given adequate notice before your landlord/host enters your unit.

If you're originally renting somewhere for less than 30 days and decide to extend your stay past 30 days, be aware that you become a legal tenant and are subject to landlord-tenant laws. These laws differ between each state, but they cover aspects including when a landlord can enter an occupied apartment and what happens if either party violates a lease.

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