Last week, I wrote about the situations in which you are legally permitted to break a lease using the provisions of the Servicemember's Civil Relief Act (SCRA), a federal law that protects military members in a variety of different situations. This week, I want to talk about the steps that you have to take to break your lease within the law.
As always with these types of laws, there may be state laws or provisions in your lease that are more favorable to the service member. Whichever is more favorable to the servicemember, federal law, state law, or the lease, takes precedence.
Under the terms of the SCRA, you can't just up and move out. You have to give your landlord notice as required by the law. The way the notice requirement is written is confusing to many people. When you notify your landlord that you need to break your lease due to a PCS move or deployment orders, your notice can not become effective any sooner than 30 days after the next scheduled rental due date. For example, if you pay your rent on the 1st of each month, and you give your landlord notice on 15 April, the earliest you can terminate your lease is 1 June (thirty days after 1 May.) If you forget to give your landlord the paperwork until you pay your rent on 1 May, then the earliest you can terminate your lease is 1 July.
With paper orders coming later and later, this sometimes means that you can't give your landlord adequate notice to move out when you need to, and you may end up paying for your house or apartment after you have moved. While it is unfortunate for the service member, it is not unreasonable. The landlord is running a business, and they're already being forced to allow you out of your lease due to your military service. They deserve the right to adequate notice that you need to terminate your lease.
Using the SCRA correctly goes a long way in reducing the pain for landlords, which makes them more likely to rent to military families in the future. Help out the collective military community and understand the SCRA so you can use it right!