If you are active military and have been ordered to deploy, you may be worried that you may still be on the hook for your lease.
It’s an understandable concern.
The good news is that you will be able to get out of your lease without penalty when you deploy, subject to certain conditions (more on that later).
That’s all thanks to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA).
According to the Consumer Finance Protection Board (an agency of the US federal government), the SCRA is a law that was designed to give extra protections for servicemembers in the event that legal or financial transactions negatively affect their rights. These protections allow servicemembers to devote their entire energy to the defense needs of the nation.
Residential leases are included within the scope of protections afforded to servicemembers (as are auto leases in some cases and certain other categories).
Of course, it’s worth noting that states may also have their own laws that protect servicemembers from their lease obligations when they are asked to deploy, so it’s worth reviewing both to fully understand your rights.
What We’ll Cover
In this article, I am going to analyze the SCRA as it relates to lease terminations in the event of deployment. I’ll also touch on state laws that have been enacted to provide additional protections, so that you can get a sense of what they look like (although it will be more of an example, and not an exhaustive review of all 50 states).
I’ll also discuss the proper process for giving notice of termination to your landlord, so that you can ensure a smooth transition out of your existing lease.
If you don’t have the time to read through it all, here’s a short answer to the question:
Servicemembers who have been asked to deploy may terminate their existing lease under the SCRA, subject to some conditions. These include providing adequate notice and proof of deployment to your landlord. If you pay monthly, the termination will happen 30 days after the next rental payment that is due after the date you delivered notice.
Ok, we’ve got a lot to cover, so let’s get into it.
The information contained in this post is for informational purposes only. It is not legal advice. You should seek the advice of a qualified legal professional before making any decisions relating to the topics covered by this article.
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As mentioned, the purpose of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act is to protect U.S. military personnel while they’re serving the country. This act applies to active duty members of the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard (and National Guard in certain emergencies). It also applies to servicemembers who are commissioned officers of the
Public Health Service or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Besides the members, SCRA also provides protection for qualified dependents, which includes spouses and children (as defined under applicable law).
Under the SCRA, if you signed a lease prior to active duty service, or if you’re already serving on active duty and receive Permanent Change of Station (PCS) or deployment orders for a period of at least 90 days, then you should be able to terminate your housing lease without penalty.
How To Properly Terminate Your Residential Lease
Under the SCRA, if you want to terminate your lease, you (or someone with a power of attorney for you) must give your landlord (or their agent, such as a property manager) a written notice of termination and a copy of your orders. This can be a letter from your commanding officer.
The means of delivery can by hand delivery, by private carrier, by regular postal mail with return receipt requested, or by electronic means (e.g., e-mail).
When Does the Termination Become Effective?
If your lease requires monthly rent payments, termination of a housing lease is effective 30 days after the first date on which the next rental payment is due and payable after the date on which the termination notice is delivered.
For all other leases, it will be the last day of month on which you provided proper notice.
It is important to remember that you will still owe for any rent that is due prior to the date of termination (including any prorated amount for partial months). Your landlord can’t charge any early termination fees, but you will still be responsible for any other obligations or damages you cause to the property.
If you paid any rent in advance, that should be refunded to you for any unused portion of your lease term.
See if a Military Clause Exists in Your Lease
If your landlord is professional and knows the law, they will often have a military clause in your lease that complies with the SCRA and state laws.
So it’s definitely worth checking. Your lease or state laws may actually provide better protections for you, so it’s in your best interest to examine both carefully.
For your convenience, here’s our 50 state reference table (including D.C.) that will link you to the official landlord tenant laws of your state.
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So there you have it – clear answer to the question of whether you can terminate your lease if you get deployed and some tips to help you comply with the SCRA’s requirements around such terminations.
Now if you want to get out of your lease, but your situation doesn’t meet the requirements above, there are other ways to terminate your lease early.
Check out my full article on how to break your lease early without penalty for more details. It includes 11 situations where you can terminate early (plus one bonus option that applies in all situations).
Hope this has been helpful and happy renting!