Breaking a Lease With Military Orders: ETS, PCS
There are 2,278,895 service members in the United States today between active duty and reserve branches. Many of these men and women at arms will have to terminate a residential lease contract at least once during their enlistment due to receipt of military orders. The U.S. Service Members Civil Relief Act protects the rights of our military personnel and their families and outlines the circumstances and procedures under which a service member may terminate his or her lease.
Many members of our armed forces are concerned about having a broken lease when they come up on orders. This is often amplified if there is an absence of a military clause in their lease. Regardless of whether the clause is included in their lease or not, all military personnel are entitled to vacate their rental home or apartment for PCS, ETS, or deployment orders.
To terminate a contract under the military clause the service member must give a written notice of at least thirty days. The timing for submitting the notice is extremely important as the lease contract will be terminated thirty days after the date on which the next rental payment is due. What that means is if G.I John wishes to vacate his apartment on July 31st and he submits his notice on July 1st he has fulfilled the requirements for giving notice. However, if he waits until July 2nd he may no longer list July 31st as his move out day. He must designate August 31st and pay through that day regardless of what day he will actually be leaving.
The concern this raises is "what if I don't get my orders in time to put in my notice?" The timing of the orders is not nearly as important as the time frame to submit the notice. As long as ETS, PCS, or deployment orders are provided to the rental office prior to move out, it makes no difference if you had them in your hand when you put in your notice.
Some service members think they may terminate their lease is they get approved for on-base housing, while others feel they may terminate is they get chaptered out of the military for some type of negative action. This is absolutely false. The SCRA only lets the service member terminate for the reasons listed above. It also will not allow the service member to terminate if the PCS is less than 90 miles away, or if the deployment is for less than 90 days. Additionally, should the service member be living with someone he or she is not married to or parent of, only the service member will be allowed out of the contract. The remaining lease holder(s) would still be responsible for the remainder of the lease term.
In order in ensure that a lease is terminated properly and will not be deemed a broken lease the service member must:
1. Put in their notice as outlined previously.
2. Submit their ETS, PCS, or deployment orders on or before the day they vacate.
3. Pay through the date on their notice of intent to vacate regardless of what day they actually leave.
4. Return the keys to the house or apartment. Failing to do so means the possession of the home or apartment was never returned. The rental company will continue to bill you until they mark the unit as abandoned at which point you left owing rent. This classifies their move out as a broken lease.
The military is protected in the ways previously described, under federal law. A rental company cannot deny the rights of a service member to terminate under the military clause simply because their lease does not contain this information. It is the law regardless of the state in which you reside. For more information regarding terminating a residential lease for military orders refer to the U.S. Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.