Skip to main content

By Lori Hendrickson, M.Ed., AFC, CFCS

Extension Educator, University of Minnesota Extension,

Housing stability is the basis for so many other parts of our lives including, the ability of students to achieve academically, to connect with peers, and to develop relationships. Housing stability supports the development of our family and neighbor relationships and provides a sense of belonging. Renting is often the housing choice for families. When families rent, they may be entering into a daunting process. If you have not experienced it before, renting can bring many questions.  What does the lease say? Why does a property manager need to know my credit rating? In what condition am I required to leave the property when I move out?  How much notice am I required to give before leaving? There are so many questions that renters may have and not know where to go for answers.

Military Families and Renting

moving boxes with family in the backgroundA RAND study indicated that approximately 30% of military families rented housing in communities.  Renter education may help military families address many issues and avoid potential pitfalls of renting.  As military family service providers, you are aware of the issues military families face. For renters, there are important considerations and protections that active service individuals can invoke while renting.  Understanding these issues, as well as being able to advocate for one’s family can be important to being a successful renter.  For example, military families receiving a Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) need to know how much they can afford to spend based on the amount they receive and any other income they can use toward rental housing. Also, those who are in active duty are protected by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. The Act was designed to allow active duty service members, especially those who are deployed, to concentrate their energies on defending our country. The Act offers such provisions as protection from termination of rental agreements, eviction and non-return of security deposits. These are important consumer protections for military families to know and understand so they can discuss them with property managers and others who may not understand the Act.

Sharing RentWise education

The materials which a colleague and I revised, offer practical resources for renters to support their rental experience.  RentWise includes the following topics:

1) Acquiring rental housing

2) Sustaining the rental unit and relationships in the rental community

3) Aspiring to future housing

The materials can be taught in a group or one-to-one setting. A workbook provides the need to know information which can be referenced at any time; a folder provides a place to keep important rental papers such as the lease agreement and other rental records.  RentWise has been developed to allow flexibility for those teaching to choose among the most relevant topics for various audiences. An online learning platform provides downloadable materials as well as a repository for supplementary materials to customize the education.  Typically, RentWise workshops will be a total of 6 hours of education and a certificate can be provided to the participants, but the materials offer flexibility in how they may be used.

To learn more about the RentWise program, visit .  Also, as we continue to build our online repository of information for rental education, I would invite you to contact me if you know of resources that the University of Minnesota Extension should add related to military families and renting.

Make plans to join the second webinar in the ongoing Permanent Change of Station series, PCS Series: Landlord-Tenant Protections for Members of the Military on March 12 at 11 a.m. ET to learn more about considerations for service members on both sides of the rental agreement.