With PCS season upon us, we at the Legal Assistance Office would like to provide some important information regarding a service member’s landlord-tenant relationship. If you have received PCS orders, and in some circumstances even if you have not (more on that below), you are entitled to terminate your residential lease early.
Section 3955 of the Servicemember Civil Relief Act (SCRA) covers terminations of residential or motor vehicle leases. You are entitled to an early exit from your lease if:
• You enter military service during the course of your lease.
• You are in military service and, during the course of your lease, you receive military orders for a permanent change of station or to deploy for a period of 90 days or more.
Even in these cases, a full 30-day notice is required.
In our experience, the best way to effectuate the termination is to write your landlord a letter giving notice of the early termination and providing the landlord with both a copy of your PCS orders and a copy of §3955 of the SCRA. A Fort Irwin Legal Assistance Office attorney can help you draft the letter.
As stated above, in some circumstances, PCS orders may not be required to terminate a lease under §3955 of the SCRA. Although it has not been litigated yet, our office has seen success in interpreting the definition of “military orders” broadly. §3955(i)(1) defines military orders as “official military orders, or any notification, certification, or verification from the service member’s commanding officer, with respect to the service member’s current or future military duty status.”
This problem can appear more frequently here at Fort Irwin because service members may sign leases in Barstow or other nearby towns before understanding how the commute can affect their duties. We have successfully negotiated the termination of a lease with the use of a memorandum from the service member’s commander ordering the service member to live on post.
Please keep in mind that this article is only meant to provide general information. Every scenario and case has its own details and intricacies that always benefit from a one-on-one consultation with an attorney. Please schedule an appointment to see a Legal Assistance Attorney for more information on this subject and for guidance through the process.
You may contact the Fort Irwin Legal Assistance Office at 760-380-5321. The hours of operation are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday — 9 a.m.-4 p.m., and Thursdays, 1-4 p.m. The office is located in Bldg. 230.