Lease Termination Law Protects Surviving Spouses

Landlords and property management firms need to be aware of a change to the SCRA lease termination laws.

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act protects servicemembers from a host of legal actions, including foreclosures and evictions, without a court order. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act also allows servicemembers to terminate a lease — without penalty — under certain circumstances and conditions.

new SCRA lease termination law

These include if the servicemember receives a PCS — permanent change of station — or if the servicemember receives orders for a deployment of at least 90 days. The servicemember must provide notice to the landlord in writing, as well as a copy of the orders.

Lease Terminations and the SCRA

However, when President Donald Trump signed two new veterans’ bills into law in 2019, these protections were expanded. One of these bills, the Veterans Benefits and Transition Act, deals with lease termination as it relates to servicemembers.

The SCRA lease termination law allows surviving spouses of servicemembers killed in the line of duty to break leases. Thus, in these instances, landlords and property managers can no longer hold dependents of servicemembers liable for the remainder of the lease they signed or any penalties associated with breaking the lease. The surviving spouse may invoke their right to do this immediately, or within one year after the death.

Some leases have had clauses in them allowing lease termination under such circumstances. But when the leases did not include that kind of provision, a court of law could not always protect the spouse and family.

Now, however, landlords and property managers must, by law, allow the surviving spouse out of the lease without charging any fees.

Lease Termination Details

The legislation, known as the Gold Star Spouses Leasing Relief Act, was originally introduced in the House by Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill. It was later brought to the Senate floor by Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; Rob Portman, R-Ohio; Deb Fischer, R-Neb.; Bill Nelson, D-Fla.; and Doug Jones, D-Ala.

The law covers the dependents of all active military members who died in service. But it further protects those serving full time in the National Guard, those on active Guard or Reserve duty and those on inactive-duty training. The new SCRA lease termination law covers any premises the servicemember or their dependents occupy or intend to occupy for “residential, professional, business, agricultural or similar purpose.”

As a result of this update to the SCRA, landlords and property managers need to stay abreast of which tenants are servicemembers. Before embarking on any collections or evictions actions, get a tenant’s military status verification. Failure to do so could result in a court obligating you to pay restitution and even steep fines.

Trust SCRACVS to Help You Stay Compliant with the SCRA

Rely on the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act Centralized Verification Service for all your military status verifications. We provide definitive results, usually within 24 hours. Further, we offer discounts for military status verification batch processing, saving you time and money.

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.