In honor of Veteran’s Day, this month we are going to discuss the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). This piece of federal legislation allows a service member to terminate residential lease agreements under certain circumstances. The SCRA is designed to protect active duty military members, reservists who are in active federal service, and National Guardsmen who are in active federal service.
A service member may terminate a residential lease agreement for premises occupied, or intended to be occupied, by a service member or a service member’s dependents. This includes can include a residential lease entered into by a service member’s spouse, fiance, or child — even if the service member is not on the lease. In order to terminate the lease:
- the lease must be executed by or on behalf of a person who thereafter and during the term of the lease enters military service; or
- the service member, while in military service, executes the lease and thereafter receives military orders for a permanent change of station or to deploy with a military unit for a period of not less than 90 days.
To terminate the lease, the service member must deliver written notice to the landlord after call to active duty or receipt of orders for active duty. Oral notice is not sufficient. The effective date of termination is determined as follows:
- For month to month rentals, the termination becomes effective 30 days after the first date on which the next rental payment is due subsequent to the date when the notice of termination is delivered. For example, if the rent is due on the first day of each month, and notice is mailed on August 1, then the next rental payment is due and payable on September 1. Thirty days after that date would be October 1, the effective date of termination.
- For all other leases, termination becomes effective on the last day of the month following the month in which proper notice is delivered. For example, if the lease requires a yearly rental and proper notice of termination is given on July 20, the effective date of termination would be August 31.
The service member is required to pay rent for only those months before the lease is terminated. If rent has been paid in advance, the landlord must prorate and refund the unearned portion. If a security deposit was required, it must be returned to the service member upon termination of the lease, minus deductions for damages exceeding reasonable wear and tear.
Remember – this piece of federal legislation will supersede your residential lease agreement provisions to the contrary. It does not matter what your company policy is with regards to early lease termination. If you rent to a service member (or the dependent of a service member) and he/she provides you with proper written notice, the above-described terms will govern the situation.