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The Importance of a Military Clause and How it Works

Rental/lease agreement on a table.

Across the United States, thousands of active-duty service members reside in rental properties near military bases and installations. But when duty calls, service members may need to quickly, and often permanently, relocate across the country or overseas. These service members can be left with tough decisions regarding their existing lease. However, with a military lease clause, military tenants have nothing to fear.

A military lease clause can protect service members who must terminate their lease early. It’s essential for both landlords and military tenants to understand the scope of this clause, as it helps to ensure that the rights and responsibilities of all parties involved are properly protected.

What is a military lease clause?

A military lease clause is a provision that grants specific rights and protections to active-duty service members and their families who live in a rental property. It allows military tenants to terminate their lease early without breaking the terms of their agreement, given certain qualifying conditions. These conditions often include Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders, deployment or other official orders that require moving to a new location.

The primary purpose of a military lease clause is to offer flexibility to service members and their families whose housing needs can change suddenly and unexpectedly. When a military tenant receives an order to relocate, they can invoke the clause to terminate their lease without the usual financial penalties, such as paying rent for the remainder of the lease term.

Military lease clauses are individual agreements between military tenants and landlords or property management companies. They often specify the notice period that the tenant must provide to the appropriate party and the documents required to verify their military orders.

What’s the difference between a military lease clause and the SCRA?

Service members may have also heard of protections provided under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). While military lease clauses and the SCRA offer similar housing protections to active-duty military service members, there are several key differences between the two.

Military Lease Clause vs. SCRA

Factor Military Lease Clause SCRA
What it means An individual agreement between a service member and their landlord that outlines the terms and conditions under which the tenant can terminate the lease early without penalties due to military orders. A federal law that offers a wide range of legal protections and benefits to military personnel, including lease termination, interest rate reductions, and foreclosure prevention.
Who it protects Anyone who meets the requirements listed in the clause, including active-duty service members, cosigners and dependents. Active-duty military service members and their dependents, although it may not apply to cosigners.
When it applies Once the stipulated conditions within the clause have been met, such as the reception of deployment or PCS orders. Service members may terminate their leases if they receive PCS orders, are deployed for at least 90 days or experience a change in their military status that makes it impractical to continue residing at the leased property.
When it can be invoked Depends on the terms agreed upon between the tenant and the landlord. Specific language must be included in the lease. Service members are typically required to provide their landlords with at least 30 days written notice before invoking SCRA protections to terminate a residential lease, although there are exceptions. Specific language is not required within the lease.

The most important distinction between the two protections is who they apply to. While the SCRA offers broader protections that cover service members and their dependents, it may not include lease relief for cosigners, including spouses or parents. If a service member receives orders to relocate and they do not have a military lease clause, their cosigner may not be able to terminate their lease early. This is why receiving coverage from both is the fullest safeguard for service members and their families.

When to Sign a Military Lease Clause

Service members should request a military clause in their lease agreement when they are in the process of signing a new lease. It’s important for military renters to communicate openly with their landlords or property management companies about their military service and potential for future relocation. This can help establish a cooperative relationship and ensure that the landlord is understanding of their tenant’s circumstances.

If a military tenant is renewing an existing lease, they may also want to ensure that the military clause is included in the renewed lease.

Military Lease Clause Termination Example

A military lease clause can be as simple or complex as the service member requires, but it should always be detailed enough to protect them from all scenarios that would require them to move before the end of their lease.

The following is an example of a military lease clause:

If the Tenant is currently, or is subsequently activated as, an active-duty member of the United States Armed Forces on extended active duty and subsequently receives permanent change of station orders necessitating their departure from the vicinity of the Premises, or is relieved from active duty, retires, separates from the military, or is directed to military housing, then in any of these circumstances, the Tenant may terminate this lease by providing written notice to the Landlord with a minimum of thirty (30) days' notice. Additionally, the Tenant shall furnish the Landlord with a copy of the official orders or a letter signed by the Tenant's commanding officer, demonstrating the change that justifies termination under this provision. The Tenant shall pay prorated rent for any days beyond the first day of the month during which they continue to occupy the dwelling. The damage/security deposit will be promptly refunded to the Tenant, provided there are no damages to the premises.

To receive assistance with writing a military lease clause and complying with state and federal laws, service members may want to contact their local military legal office. As previously mentioned, it’s most important for a landlord and tenant to form a cooperative agreement that fits both of their needs.

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