Change to Law Makes It Easier for Service Members to Get Out of a Lease

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A change to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) means that military members now may use electronic communications to break their residential leases due to permanent change of station (PCS) moves or deployments. This change may make it easier to give timely notice, an important step in starting the clock for the termination of a lease.

The SCRA is a part of the U.S. Code that gives certain protections to military service members and their spouses. The law is designed to ensure that military members and their families are not financially disadvantaged by the requirements of military service. One often-used protection is the ability to terminate the lease on an apartment or house if the service member receives PCS orders, or orders to deploy for more than 90 days.

Details of the SCRA lease termination provisions

If either of those two criteria are met, the service member may notify their landlord of their intent to terminate the lease, even if the lease is supposed to end later. This notice should include both a notice of termination and a copy of the appropriate orders, or a letter from the commanding officer if the orders are not yet available.

Once the service member has notified the landlord, then the lease terminates 30 days from the next rent that is due. For example, if the rent is due typically on the first of the month, and proper notice is delivered to the landlord on Sept. 15, the service member will be responsible for the rent for 30 days from Oct. 1 (the next time the rent is due).

The ability to deliver this notice electronically means that the service member may be able to deliver notice shortly before the next rent is due, providing an extra month's flexibility in scheduling. For example, if the service member learns of their deployment on the 31st of the month, they could deliver notification quickly before their rent becomes due the following day.

The change to the law specifically includes:

"the direct delivery of material to an electronic address designated by the lessor [or the lessor's grantee] or the lessor's agent [or the agent's grantee]"

"the posting of material to a website or other internet or electronic-based information repository to which access has been granted to the lessee, the lessor [or the lessor's grantee], or the lessor's agent [or the agent's grantee]"

"other electronic means reasonably calculated to ensure actual receipt of the material by the lessor [or the lessor's grantee] or the lessor's agent [or the agent's grantee]."

Some landlords may have previously accepted electronic notification without any problems, but that was not required under the law. Now, landlords must accept electronic notification in the same way that they would accept notification delivered by mail or in person. This not only will be more timely but also more convenient for military members during what can be a very busy time.

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