DoD

June 7, 2012

Rental agreements — SCRA protects Soldiers

Staff Judge Advocate

Soldiers often find they have to move out of rental property sooner than expected due to reassignment, deployment, or other military-related relocation events. This can be a strain on the wallet because most leases include extra fees for early termination. However, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act protects Soldiers in certain situations from early termination fees.

A Soldier can cancel a lease early with no penalty when he or she receives permanent-change-of-station orders or comes up on orders to deploy. In either case, he or she has to be gone for more than 90 days before the benefit applies. Even if the lease has a “military waiver clause” or a service member accidentally waived early termination rights, the waiver clause is not valid unless it is executed on a completely separate document referring to the lease.

When service members find they have to move earlier than expected, they have landlord notification responsibility.

The SCRA requires that military personnel notify their landlord by giving them a copy of the orders and a written notice of their intent to terminate early. Early report dates on PCS orders can be the basis of when a service member decides to terminate the lease.

Soldiers cannot rely on the SCRA to cancel early if they decide the location of their rental is inconvenient or the cost of the utilities bill is too high.

Soldiers and other military members have other protections.

The Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act requires landlords to maintain the property as fit premises for occupancy. Unfortunately, finding a better deal somewhere else doesn’t exempt a Soldier from early termination fees.

A service member’s landlord can charge rent for 30 days after the date the next rental payment is due, after the date the service member gives the landlord written notice. For example, a Soldier gives notice on April 15. The next rental is normally due May 1. The landlord can make the service member pay rent until May 31. The key is to get the written notice in the landlord’s hands as soon as possible.

For other lease-related information, call the Legal Assistance Office, 533.2009/0615.




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