11 Jun Military Tenants and the Service Members Civil Relief Act
This being the Washington DC Metro Area our offices deal with a lot of military client’s many of whom are renting while on assignment in our area. However, what happens when a military tenant suddenly receives orders that they’re being reassigned? This is where the Service Members Civil Relief Act comes into play.
Paragraph 25 Article A of the Virginia Common Law Lease – Transfer of Tenant- states the following:
“Under the Service Members Civil Relief Act of 2003 (“SCRA”), as it may be amended from time to time, and under Virginia law, a Tenant who is a member of the United States Armed Forces or of the National Guard serving full-time duty, or a Civil Service technician with a National Guard Unit (“Military Tenant”)has the right to terminate this Lease if such Military Tenant (1) receives orders to depart thirty-five (35) miles or more (radius) from the Premises either for a permanent change of station or for temporary duty for more than ninety days, (2) is discharged or released from active duty or from full-time duty or technician status, (3) is ordered to report to government-supplied quarters resulting in the forfeiture of basic allowance for quarters, or (4) after entry into military service. The Military Tenant may terminate this Lease by serving the Landlord with written Notice of termination stating the date when termination will be effective. The date of termination shall not be less than thirty (30) days after the first date on which the next rental payment is due following delivery of the written Notice. In addition, the termination date shall not be more than sixty (60) days prior to the date of departure necessary to comply with the official orders or any supplemental instructions for the interim training or duty prior to the transfer. Military Tenant shall attach to Notice of Termination a copy of the orders, official notification of orders, or a signed letter from the commanding officer confirming the orders.”
As you can see the article very clearly outlines what is to happen should an active duty military tenant need to terminate their lease under the circumstances outlined in the SCRA. So why you ask am I bringing this up? Well, late last year I had a military tenant who had just moved into one of our rental properties over the summer. He discovered that commuting in the Washington DC Metro Area can sometimes be a challenge and many times even though you’re well within that 35 mile radius of your duty station your commute can be considerably long due to local traffic patterns. **This is why I always recommend when relocating to a new area you research it thoroughly and engage the assistance of a local real estate agent long before your move date.**
So the tenant decided he was going to invoke the SCRA to break the lease. Now the Landlord of this particular property is military as well. When we notified him of his tenants intention he immediately sought the advice of the Judge Advocate General (JAG) who did indeed confirm the SCRA CANNOT be invoked under this particular circumstance. The property is located well within the thirty-five (35) mile radius, the tenant did not have reassignment orders, and the SCRA is not designed to be used to relieve the burden of long commute times due to local traffic patterns.
In this case, the military tenant had no legal grounds to break the lease, and remains in the property. Please remember to always read a lease carefully before signing it. If you are new to an area and unsure of things such as commuting times, please do your research and contact a real estate professional in that area to assist you!