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Military Lease Termination: What Property Managers Need to Know

Property managers may be faced with tenants who want to terminate a lease before it expires for a number of reasons. Leases exist for a reason and have regulations about how they can be ended, but what happens when the tenant is a military member? 

Recently we talked to a CRES client who’s a property manager facing a military lease termination, because the tenant was a military member transferred to a different city. Our client wanted to know what laws governed this situation and how she should handle it. 

The CRES Risk Management legal advice team provided information about laws related to housing governing servicemembers, including regulations for military lease termination. 

Military Lease Termination Regulations

So can military members terminate a lease early? The short answer is yes. As a property manager, you must accommodate an early termination in the event of a distant and long term re-assignment of duty stations provided notice is given to the landlord.

The relevant laws are found in the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) available from the U.S. Department of Justice. SCRA covers many things, not just housing, but one of the things it addresses is protection in connection with residential (apartment) lease terminations. With military members often needing to move for reassignment, military lease termination protection makes sense. 

It doesn’t mean that any military member can just leave. There are specific situations and processes specified in the law. 

  • When talking about residential apartment leases, the SCRA requires that the premises be occupied (or are intended to be occupied) by a servicemember or a servicemember’s dependent(s). 
  • The lease must either be executed by a person who later enters military service, or is in the military service and later receives permanent change of station (PCS) orders or deployment orders for a period of at least 90 days.  
  • To terminate a residential lease, the servicemember must submit a written notice and a copy of his or her military orders – or a letter from a commanding officer – by certain methods to the landlord or landlord’s agent. 
  • If a servicemember pays rent on a monthly basis, once he or she gives proper notice and a copy of his or her military orders, then the lease will terminate 30 days after the next rent payment is due
  • If a servicemember lessee dies while in military service, the spouse of a lessee may terminate the lease within one year of the death. 

Let’s look at a hypothetical situation, assuming the lease conditions are met. The tenant in the property you manage is a service member who receives PCS orders to transfer from Colorado to Texas. She gives the landlord written notice of her intent to terminate her apartment lease and a copy of her PCS orders on September 20. Her next rent payment is due on October 1. She is responsible for that rent payment, and her lease terminates on October 31.  

Note that National Guard members are covered by state laws, and the protections may be slightly different from SCRA protections and may vary by state. 

Do you have questions about early termination of leases for any reason – or maybe another legal issue? CRES clients can call the CRES ClaimPrevent® Hotline 7 days a week. Clients receive a guaranteed response within 4 hours or next business day, with recommendations confirmed in writing.

What’s the trickiest lease situation you’ve faced?

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