The “military clause” in a residential lease allows a service member to cancel the lease and receive a full return of the security deposit if the service member is called to active duty or is required to relocate for service-related reasons. Only active duty, Guard, and Reserve members are eligible to use it.
Because of this arrangement, family members who are summoned to active duty need not fear about being separated from their loved ones. In a similar vein, it safeguards the financial stability of service members by preventing them from withdrawing their savings without orders.
Definition and Operation of a Military Clause
A military clause may apply to active-duty servicemembers of the United States Armed Forces (including the Reserves and National Guard). Despite not being needed, this clause is sometimes included in leases in areas adjacent to military bases. Catering to military renters can help landlords fill fewer vacant apartments, but it could put them at risk financially if the tenants break the lease.
Moving permanently out of one’s current duty station is one of the events that can trigger a military clause. A copy of the service member’s orders must be sent to the landlord if the service member wishes to terminate the lease early. In addition, the service member and their commanding officer will need to provide current contact information in a written and signed notice of intent to vacate the property.
The letter should also provide a final move-out date and a request for the return of any security deposits. Like with any significant document, make and save copies before sending the originals over Certified Mail with a request for a signed delivery receipt.
If the Landlord receives a copy of the orders after the last day of the month, the lease will expire on the last day of the following month. If the tenant gave the landlord notice in January, the lease would expire on February 28th. All rent payments were postponed till February 28th.
Using SCRA’s Military Exclusion Clause
The military provision was modeled after similar provisions in the Servicemembers Civil Service Relief Act (SCRA). This federal law was passed in 1940 to protect service members from financial mistreatment and theft. The SCRA offers protection from a wide range of potential penalties for transitioning service members. Repossession of a car, the closure of a storage facility, foreclosure, pending legal action, credit card debt, and other financial obligations. The SCRA applies to both Permanent Change of Station transfers and deployments longer than ninety days.
If a service member is unable to terminate a lease or if the landlord refuses to comply with the SCRA, they should contact the local office of a military legal assistance programme for advice. The numerous DoD office locations can be found on the department’s website.