Paycheck Chronicles

From The Mailbag: Breaking A Lease


The Servicemembers' Civil Relief Act (SCRA) provides many protections for military members and their families.  Knowing the terms of the SCRA can be very useful in a variety of financial situations, including having to break a lease due to a PCS move or deployment.  However, state law or your lease can actually provide more protections than the SCRA.  I'm hoping that is the case for A.S. and her husband:

Hi! We are stationed in San Antonio right now. My husband is visiting a school. We are already on assignment to move to FT Lewis at the end of November/beginning of December. We hope that our orders will be cut by the end of October, to get out of the lease. My question is now if we don't have the orders till than, does the landlord has to accept our 30 day notice when we tell him we will give him the orders when we have them? We don't wanna pay for a time when we aren't here. Our lease has the military clause in it. I heard from a spouse that her landlord isn't accepting her notice without the orders. Thanks!  A.S.
Unless I know that a person is totally unreasonable, I usually advise that you start by talking with the person.  However, it helps to know your rights.
 Dear A.S.,

You will need to read your lease to see exactly how your military clause is worded.  The minimum protections offered by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act require that the servicemember submit their request in writing and attach a copy of the orders.  The  termination date is then 30 days from the time that the next regularly scheduled payment is due.

Sound less than ideal, but there are two things that might work in your favor.  First, your lease may contain language that is more generous than the generic protections of the SCRA.  For example, many military clauses that the tenant may terminate the lease 30 days from the date of notice, and don't specify that the orders be attached at the time of the notice.

In addition, your landlord may be more flexible than what is written in the lease, especially if you are on good terms.  I suggest you start talking with them now, letting them know that you are expecting orders and will keep them informed as things progress.  Many landlords are willing to work with you if you work with them.

When entering into a new lease agreement, it benefits you to have the military clause written in the most generous way possible.  Be sure that the lease is signed in the name of the servicemember in order to be protected by the SCRA.  Some landlords will not deviate from their standard lease, or the provisions of the SCRA, but it never hurts to ask.

A.S., please let us know how it goes.  I'm sure we can all learn from your experience.

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