Military Orders & Residential Leases

Termination of Residential Leases. The Service Member’s Relief Act allows individuals to break a lease when they go onto active duty, if the lease was entered into before going onto active duty. Additionally, the act allows a service member to terminate a residential lease entered into while in the military, if the member receives permanent change of station (PCS) orders, or orders to deploy for a period of not less than 90 days.

This protection covers “lease of premises occupied, or intended to be occupied, by a servicemember or a servicemember’s dependents for a residential, professional, business, agricultural, or similar purpose.”

To break a lease under these provisions, the servicemember must make the request in writing, and must include a copy of their orders (orders placing them on active duty, PCS orders, or deployment orders). The member may deliver the notification by hand, by commercial carrier, or by mail (return receipt requested).

The termination date for a lease that requires monthly rent, the earliest termination date is 30 days after the first date on which the next payment is due, following proper notification of termination of lease. For example, if Sgt John pays his rent on the first of every month, and he notifies his landlord (and gives the landlord a copy of his orders), on the 18th of June, that he wishes to terminate the lease under the provisions of the SCRA, the earliest termination date 1 August (the next rent is due 1 July, and 30 days later is 1 August).

I’m often asked, “What if there are other people on the lease? Who has to make up the rent?” Not the landlord, that’s for sure. Also, not the service member. The SCRA is silent in this area. In most states, the burden would likely fall on the remaining roommates. They would either have to make up the military member’s share of the rent, or find another roommate. The SCRA gives the military member the right to terminate his/her own portion of the lease early, but the law does not require the landlord to decrease the amount of total rent for the property, nor does the law protect remaining non-military roommates (unless, of course, they are the member’s legal dependents).

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