Breaking a Lease Prior to Deployment

What is the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)?  

The Servicemember Civil Relief Act (SCRA) provides protection for active-duty members of the military. This act gives military members a range of legal and financial protections that a civilian does not have. SCRA addresses consumer, financial, and housing law issues that an active-duty service member may encounter before, during, or after a relocation or deployment.

Who is covered under SCRA?

The following service members are covered by the SCRA:

  • A full-time active-duty member of the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine, Navy, or Space Force.
  • A reservist on active duty.
  • A member of the National Guard on federal orders for a period of more than 30 days.
  • A service member who is absent from duty for a lawful cause or because of illness, injury, or leave.
  • A commissioned officer of the Public Health Service (PHS) or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
  • Dependents may also be eligible. This may include a service member’s spouse, child, or any other person who has received at least one-half of the service member’s financial support in the last 6 months.

Can I terminate my lease if I get military orders?

Yes, the SCRA allows for lease agreements to be broken for residential housing, professional, business, or agricultural properties.

A signed lease may be terminated on a property if a service member or their dependents are using the property or planning to use the property when they can:

  • Show that the lease was signed before entering active duty; or
  • Show that the lease was signed at least 90 days before the service member’s Permanent Change of Stations (PCS) or deployment orders were given.

I had to leave right away; can my family break the lease?

Yes, if a service member had to leave and their dependents would need to break the lease, they may also be able to utilize the SCRA protections. The dependent will need to have power of attorney over the service member’s personal affairs while they are deployed to break a lease on their behalf. They would then submit the same paperwork to the landlord on behalf of the service member.

How do I tell my landlord about my lease termination?

For a lease to be terminated, the service member needs to provide the landlord with:

  • A written, signed and dated, notice; and
  • A copy of their Permanent Change of Station or deployment orders.

The letter may be hand delivered, sent over mail, or electronically (ie. e-mail, apartment digital dashboard). Telling the landlord face-to-face or any verbal notice is not considered a form of official notice.

Here is a letter template as an example of what may be submitted: Letter Template

When will my last rental payment be due?

The last rental payment depends on how often payments were made according to the lease.

If the tenant makes monthly rental payments, the tenant will have to pay for their current month and for 30 days after notice is given.

  • Example: If the landlord was notified on July 23, and monthly rent is due on the 1st, the tenant will be responsible for July and August rent, but not September.

For those that make annual or bi-annual rent payments, termination is scheduled for the last day of the month after the landlord is notified. In cases where rent was paid in advanced, the landlord should prorate and refund the service member or dependents for the unused amount.

  • Example: If the tenant gives the landlord proper notice on July 23, the termination date would be August 31.

 Security deposits should also be returned if the property is left in the same, or better, condition when it was received.

Am I automatically protected by SCRA for any early lease termination?

Maybe, lease agreements may contain a clause or documents that waive (give up) any SCRA protections. It is good practice to review all parts of a lease before signing.

By legally waiving SCRA protections, it may not be possible to terminate a lease early due to PCS or deployment. In these situations, service members could have significant financial penalties for terminating a lease.

If a lease was signed that waived SCRA protections, the service member may want to contact a legal assistance/judge advocate office for help.

What would happen if I left for deployment and just abandoned my apartment?    

In cases where deployment orders are received on short notice, service members may have to abandon their home and belongings.

The Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act states that there are consequences for people who leave their rental without notice. In addition to an eviction action, the landlord may also file a civil lawsuit to collect the remainder of the rent on the lease, attorney fees, and late fees. If the landlord is unable to collect the amount owed, they may file for a garnishment of wages or property from the service member.

To proceed with the abandonment, the:

  • Mails a notice of abandonment to the last known address of the tenant, and
  • Posts a notice of abandonment on the door of the home.

After 5 days of mailing and posting the notice of abandonment, the landlord may retake possession of the home.

Once the landlord has taken possession of the home, the tenant’s belongings will be stored by the landlord for 10 days. After this period, the landlord may sell, donate, or throw away the tenant’s belongings.

Tenants who would like their items back will have to pay for any storage or moving fees.

 

What is the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)? The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) provides protection for active-duty members of the military. This act gives military members a range of legal and financial protections that a civilian does not have.  SCRA addresses consumer, financial, and housing law issues that an active-duty service member may encounter before, during, or after a relocation or deployment.   Who is covered under SCRA? The following service members are covered by the SCRA :   A full-time active-duty member of the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine, Navy, or Space Force.   A reservist on active duty.    A member of the National Guard on federal orders for a period of more than 30 days.   A service member who is absent from duty for a lawful cause or because of illness, injury, or leave.   A commissioned officer of the Public Health Service (PHS) or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).   Dependents may also be eligible. This may include a service member’s spouse, child, or any other person who has received at least one-half of the service member’s financial support in the last 6 months.   Can I terminate my lease if I get military orders? Yes, the SCRA allows for lease agreements to be broken for residential housing, professional, business, or agricultural properties.    A signed lease may be terminated on a property if a service member or their dependents are using the property or planning to use the property when they can:   Show that the lease was signed before entering active duty; or   Show that the lease was signed at least 90 days before the service member’s Permanent Change of Stations (PCS) or deployment orders were given. I had to leave right away. Can my family break the lease? Yes, if a service member had to leave and their dependents would need to break the lease, they may also be able to utilize the SCRA protections. The dependent will need to have power of attorney over the service member’s personal affairs while they are deployed to break a lease on their behalf. They would then submit the same paperwork to the landlord on behalf of the service member.   How do I tell my landlord about my lease termination? For a lease to be terminated, the service member needs to provide the landlord with:   A written, signed and dated, notice; and    A copy of their Permanent Change of Station or deployment orders.   The letter may be hand delivered, sent over mail, or electronically (ie. e-mail, apartment digital dashboard). Telling the landlord face-to-face or any verbal notice is not considered a form of official notice. Click for a letter template as an example of what may be submitted When will my last rental payment be due? The last rental payment depends on how often payments were made according to the lease. If the tenant makes monthly rental payments, the tenant will have to pay for their current month and for 30 days after notice is given.   Example: If the landlord was notified on July 23, and monthly rent is due on the 1st, the tenant will be responsible for July and August rent, but not September.   For those that make annual or bi-annual rent payments, termination is scheduled for the last day of the month after the landlord is notified. In cases where rent was paid in advanced, the landlord should prorate and refund the service member or dependents for the unused amount.   Example: If the tenant gives the landlord proper notice on July 23, the termination date would be August 31. Security deposits should also be returned if the property is left in the same, or better, condition when it was received. Am I automatically protected by SCRA for any early lease termination? Maybe, lease agreements may contain a clause or documents that waive (give up) any SCRA protections. It is good practice to review all parts of a lease before signing.    By legally waiving SCRA protections, it may not be possible to terminate a lease early due to PCS or deployment. In these situations, service members could have significant financial penalties for terminating a lease.    If a lease was signed that waived SCRA protections, the service member may want to contact a legal assistance/judge advocate office for help.    What would happen if I left for deployment and just abandoned my apartment? In cases where deployment orders are received on short notice, service members may have to abandon their home and belongings.    The Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act states that there are consequences for people who leave their rental without notice. In addition to an eviction action, the landlord may also file a civil lawsuit to collect the remainder of the rent on the lease, attorney fees, and late fees. If the landlord is unable to collect the amount owed, they may file for a garnishment of wages or property from the service member.    To proceed with the abandonment, the landlord:   Mails a notice of abandonment to the last known address of the tenant, and   Posts a notice of abandonment on the door of the home.   After 5 days of mailing and posting the notice of abandonment, the landlord may retake possession of the home.   Once the landlord has taken possession of the home, the tenant’s belongings will be stored by the landlord for 10 days. After this period, the landlord may sell, donate, or throw away the tenant’s belongings.    Tenants who would like their items back will have to pay for any storage or moving fees.   

This website has been prepared for general information purposes only. The information on this website is not legal advice. Legal advice is dependent upon the specific circumstances of each situation. Also, the law may vary from state-to-state or county-to-county, so that some information in this website may not be correct for your situation. Finally, the information contained on this website is not guaranteed to be up to date. Therefore, the information contained in this website cannot replace the advice of competent legal counsel licensed in your jurisdiction.

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