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How you can get cheap rent, but it comes with a ‘bump’ notice. What it’s like living on ‘Standby’

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In less than six weeks, Lisa Russell has lived in six different apartments in three different states.

A day after she’d settled into her first rental in Phoenix in early January, she received a “bump” notice from her apartment management company. She knew she’d have to vacate the apartment in three days – but she wasn’t worried. She’d quickly find another unit owned by the company.

But after apartment hopping for a third time, she’d run out of luck. This time, she had to drive four hours to Las Vegas to find a pad within the company’s network.

Such is the world of “Standby” members, a soon-to-be-launched offshoot of Landing, a subscription-based nationwide rental network of fully furnished apartments, aimed at digital nomads who have the flexibility to pick up and move.

The Standby membership lets renters pick fully furnished one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments in 350 cities for $1,295 per month. No security deposits, no leases, no utility costs. Meanwhile, the median listed rent in December was $1,712, or 32% higher, in the 50 largest U.S. metropolitan areas.

The catch? You might have to move with a 72-hour notice.

“I think it’s a wonderful program, but it’s not for everyone. You must have a nomadic existence, meaning you likely will be moving a lot,” says Russell. “For me, I love it. It’s an adventure.”

Russell, 54, who owns a home in Montana and works in fundraising for a nonprofit, says she travels extensively for work. In addition to the accommodations, she finds the price to be right.

“It’s $1,295 a month, but when you weigh that against staying in hotels for 10 days a month, you’d be spending $3,000 a month,” she told USA TODAY from her apartment in Washington, D.C. “It’s one flat fee regardless of how big the apartment is. You get to stay in a luxury apartment without having to commit for six months or a year.”

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Founded in 2019 by Bill Smith, 37, , who sold Shipt, an online grocery delivery marketplace, to Target for $550 million in 2017, Landing was aimed at renters who wanted to bypass stubborn leases and high moving costs.

The idea came to him when he had to temporarily relocate to San Francisco from his home in Birmingham, Alabama, for work without knowing how long he’d be there but still having to set up utilities and buy furniture .

“That was one problem I was really excited about solving – making it easier for people to live flexibly,” says Smith. “So if you live in Austin and you take a new job in Denver, you can just open the app and choose another home in Denver and move any time. You don’t have to worry about when your lease expires next year or loading a moving truck.”

The standard Landing membership, with a presence in 375 U.S. cities , differs from the standby offering.

The standard comes with annual dues of $199 and apartment rates differ from city to city depending on the market rate, size of the apartment and demand. The units are typically priced at a 25% premium compared to market-rate apartments, said Smith.

For standard members, leases are month-to-month, with minimum stays are 30 days in each apartment, and members can select a move-out date or opt to stay indefinitely.

Standby members sign a monthly lease that grants access to all apartment homes within Landing’s nationwide network (except New York and California) and includes rent, utilities, and internet.

The reason for Standby’s short notice period is, of course, that standard Landing members get preference. So if a standard member requests an apartment, the Standby tenant gets bumped.

Katie Landmark had been wanting to “go nomad” for some time.

Having returned home to Madison, Wisconsin, from Los Angeles during the pandemic, the 30-year-old marketing manager had been wanting to make more of her newfound independence as a fully remote worker for the past year.

When she heard about “Standby,” it immediately appealed to her.

“I love traveling and being a remote worker, I wanted to infuse a bit more adventure into my days and my weekends. So I was looking at Airbnbs, hotels, subleases, but I kept getting stuck in the granular planning phase,” she says. “Landing is so easy to use and it’s so efficient. You sign up, choose your destination, show up, and you’re on your way.”

In Madison, Landmark was paying $1,500 for a one-bedroom apartment. Once she decided to give Landing a try, she says she didn’t renew her lease. She split her belongings between storage and her parent’s home and set off to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Dec. 31 as her first adventure destination.

“I’d never been to Ft. Lauderdale before. It was great to escape the winter,” she says.

Since then, she’s lived in Miami and recently moved to Chicago in time for her father’s birthday.

“I think it’s a mindset and it’s all about how you look at it. To me it just lends itself to the adventure,” she says. “You know, like you get your notice and OK, it’s just time to choose another city to explore a new adventure.”

Swapna Venugopal Ramaswamy is a housing and economy correspondent for USA TODAY.  You can follow her on Twitter @SwapnaVenugopal and sign up for our Daily Money newsletter here.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Living on ‘Standby’: How you can get cheap rent, but there’s a catch.

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