Active Military Status: Property Lease Termination Rights

As many renters consider moving to new places, landlords should be sure to check military status when vetting tenants.

‘As many renters consider moving to new places, landlords should be sure to check military status when vetting tenants. ‘

What, exactly, constitutes active military status? When you’re in the business of property leases, it’s important to know.

When tenants start to look for new places and consider breaking their leases, landlords can benefit greatly from knowing which terminations are affected by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. Failure to check military status could result in fines or worse.

Protecting those with active military status
This landmark legislation provides numerous protections for deployed servicemembers. It also covers individuals on active duty in the military.

The SCRA intends to enable those who serve our country to devote their full attention to their military obligations by granting them some leniency in terms of their civil responsibilities.

Lease termination rights
While the act covers many different facets of servicemembers’ financial lives, this particular article will focus on how the legislation impacts their right to break property leases, even if their agreement lacks a military termination clause.

For individuals with active military status to exercise this right, which is outlined under Section 535 of SCRA, the lease in question must meet specific requirements.

Servicemembers can terminate leases if they occupy a property for a residential, agricultural, professional, business or similar purpose. The SCRA covers their dependents using the property as well.

Specific requirements
In addition to the aforementioned, servicemembers must also meet one of two requirements to have these rights under the SCRA.

  1. If the servicemember — while in military service — executes the lease and then receives orders either to deploy with a military unit for a period of at least 90 days or undergoes a permanent change of station, this will give them the right to break the lease.
  2. In addition, if a servicemember enters military service after they or someone acting as their representative executes a lease, this situation will also give the servicemember the right to sever the agreement.

Understanding how servicemember tenants could terminate a real property lease
To terminate a property lease, servicemembers must follow a specific process. First, the servicemember needs to supply the landlord with a written notice of termination and a copy of military orders. The servicemember can furnish these documents in three ways:

  • Deliver it through a private business carrier.
  • Hand it to the landlord.
  • Mail it, return receipt requested.

The termination for a month-to-month lease becomes effective 30 days following the first day when the next payment is due.

Thus, if the tenant pays rent on the first of every month and gives the landlord the documents on Jan. 2, the effective date of termination is March 3.

Leases that do not obligate tenants to make monthly payments follow slightly different rules. In these instances, providing the landlord with the written notice of termination and a copy of military orders on March 11 would result in an April 30 termination date.

Other key matters
Landlords should know that they must pay back any amount servicemembers pay covering periods following the date of termination. The landlord is responsible for providing the leaseholder with this amount within 30 days of the lease termination’s effective date.

While landlords can potentially face many challenges under the SCRA, they should realize the legislation grants them the ability to challenge a termination notice provided by a servicemember.

To do so, the individual interested in disputing the lease’s termination must take legal action in the appropriate court before the termination date in the written notice. Verifying military service through the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act Centralized Verification Service is the best way to determine if a tenant is afforded the protection that falls under the legislation.

To verify military status of an individual, log in to your account. If you haven’t registered, you can register to obtain your military status verification here

Attorney Roy Kaufmann serves as the Director of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act Centralized Verification Service, located in Washington, D.C. As a recognized authority on the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, Mr. Kaufmann has published hundreds of articles and hosted many webinars. His teachings help law firms and businesses to remain compliant with the SCRA rules and regulations so as to avoid costly fines.

Copyright © 2017 by SCRA, LLC. All rights reserved.
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