Whether you are a Landlord or a Tenant, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) is something you need to know about. “It is intended to postpone or suspend certain civil obligations to enable service members to devote full attention to duty and relieve stress on the family members of those deployed servicemembers.” –Military.com
As a tenant
The act provides allowances for those who must unexpectedly PCS or deploy for more than 90 days to withdraw from a residential lease after the contract has been signed. So if you know you are going to deploy or PCS 9 months in, negotiate with the Landlord on the length of the contract or ask if sub-leasing would be acceptable.
In cases where the termination of a lease is allowed, service members must provide their landlord with a copy of their orders and a written termination notice. According to the SCRA, the earliest termination date for leases with monthly payments is 30 days after the date on which the next rental payment is due. For all other leases, termination would take effect on the last day of the month after the termination notice was delivered to the landlord.
SCRA protects you from eviction.¬† If your monthly rent is less than $3,047.45 per month (as of 2012), your landlord may not evict you or your dependents from a home that is used primarily as a residence during a period of military service without a court order. If an eviction action is filed against you or one of your dependents, the court must temporarily stay the proceedings or adjust the amount of your financial obligation if you can show that you have been unable to meet your financial obligations under the lease because of your military service.
SCRA protects your security deposit.¬† In most cases, you have the right to have your security deposit refunded. However, you will be responsible for any unpaid rent or other lease amounts due before the effective date of termination, as well as any taxes, fees, and other reasonable charges, such as charges for excess wear and damages.
Stateside Library offers an interactive library that helps you craft an early termination letter, letter regarding security deposit and if your landlord attempts to evict you.
The rights and protections provided by SCRA affect more than just lease agreements.¬†It also covers issues such as installment contracts, credit card interest rates, mortgage interest rates, mortgage foreclosure, civil judicial proceedings, automobile leases, life insurance, health insurance and income tax payments.
As a landlord
It is your responsibility to know about the SCRA and how it is to be used by a tenant. Whether you are Active Duty or Retired/Prior Military or a civilian with a property(ies) in a heavily populated military location, you should be very familiar with the SCRA.
Be sure to¬†include an addendum to your lease regarding the SCRA. While not required (the protection is there whether you include the addendum or not), an addendum can be used to show “intent” (include a line item about not entering into the agreement knowing PCS or deployment is occurring within the lease agreement timeframe) or have the servicemember waive their rights and protections to SCRA. Finalize your draft lease agreement by having it reviewed by an attorney who is familiar with SCRA and the military, JAG and the Housing Office at your nearest base.
Lastly, be sure that you verify any orders presented in support of an early termination with your local base or call the “work number” provided on the lease agreement to validate that the orders you have received are current and valid.