The Legal Concerns Facing Military Tenants

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Renting or purchasing a home off-base looks to be the only alternative. If military accommodation is not a possibility, renting appears to be the most convenient choice. What do you think?

Renting isn’t risk-free because it requires a long-term (particularly contractual) commitment. But, as with everything involving legal hazards, there are steps you may take to minimize your exposure.

Prior to renting, do some homework

Do your homework before signing any contracts with a real estate agent or landlord. Ask for aid from military friends and family. It’s possible that a group on social media in your area can also help you out. Though you shouldn’t count on getting 100 percent accurate information from your searches.

A realtor at a military base can be contacted to inquire about their reputation and referrals. Property management firms and apartment complexes may also be listed by the local real estate organization.

Understanding Your Lease

Each state has its own set of restrictions, so always read your lease thoroughly before signing it. Make sure you know the process of calculating damages, how to terminate the lease, and about any additional fees.

In addition to reading your lease, you must also be aware of what alterations you can do to the property and how to deal with any maintenance difficulties.

Your Responsibilities as a Tenant in the Event of Damage

Renters are responsible for reporting any damage or difficulties with their rental property in a timely way, even if there are no maintenance charges associated with the property. In the event that you fail to notify the property manager or owner, you could be held accountable for extra damages that resulted from your failure to do so (whomever the lease identifies).

The property owner’s insurance does not cover you as a renter. Because of this, renters insurance is essential! In the past, renters insurance was included in the base housing allowance (BAH). It no longer does. There are no exceptions to this rule, regardless of whether you live on or off base. If your personal property is harmed as a result of damage to your house, you may not be covered by your homeowner’s insurance. Don’t forget to include the worth of the most valuable objects in your policy.

Be aware of the potential impact of SCRA

People who are on active duty, or who are in the National Guard or Reserve, are protected by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act of 2003 (SCRA). Renters who join the military or who begin a rental agreement while serving and are deployed for at least 90 days or receive PCS orders may be allowed to terminate their agreements under the SCRA.

You must give written notice if you want to break your lease early. Verbal communication alone is not sufficient. The written notice must also include a copy of your orders.

It’s also important to know the laws about when the termination takes effect when you send a written notice to your former employer. Written notice is required for all leases (except monthly basis) to be terminated, and such notice must be received by the last day of the next succeeding month. Termination becomes effective on the 30th of April if written notice of termination is delivered by March 20th. On April 1, you may still be obligated to make your rent payment (and then have the money refunded).

After 30 days following written notice to the landlord, the lease can be terminated for leases where the monthly rent is paid. Your lease will end on October 31 if you give the notice to terminate on September 2, which is the day before rent is due.

Landlords must prorate your rent up to the date of termination and reimburse any overpayments if you have paid any rent in advance. Rent that has not been paid in full, as well as any reasonable fees and costs for damage to the property, must be deducted from the security deposit before it may be refunded to you upon lease termination.

It is common for leases to contain a “military clause,” a reference to the SCRA’s requirements. In order to terminate a lease due to orders, you must be able to depend on the SCRA, which stipulates that the lease you sign must include a military clause.

It doesn’t, in a nutshell.

You can co-sign a lease with your service member spouse if you’re a military spouse. SCRA made it feasible for an active duty member and a non-active duty householder to sign a lease, but only the active duty member can count on those instructions to cancel a lease early. Housing-related power of attorney allows a spouse or roommate to submit notices and directives without the active duty member’s signature or physical presence.

As a result, landlords who try to evict a tenant who relies on SCRA are protected by the SCRA, which basically means that if you give two or three months’ notice and orders, they can’t evict you earlier because of that notice.

As long as the monthly rental payment is below the threshold mentioned, landlords must get a court order to evict any tenant on active duty orders. For up to three months, the eviction can be postponed by the court.

Courts have the power to extend eviction notices in circumstances when military service affects your capacity to pay rent. If a reservist is called up, the government is shut down, or a member of the national guard is deployed, they may find themselves without their primary source of income. This SCRA clause is not intended to allow military tenants to avoid paying rent, but rather to safeguard families who are temporarily unable to pay their rent as a result of their service.

Under the SCRA, can you give up your rights?

Yes, you can legally forgo your SCRA protections. While you’re waiting for base housing, you can, for example, secure a six-month lease. Landlords can ask for a waiver of your SCRA rights to cancel your lease early in the lease agreement. Consider this a reasonable compromise in today’s difficult rental market. SCRA protections may not be worth waiving if your lease is longer than six months! To know more about SCRA, visit this website.

Final Note

Contrary to popular belief, renting a home isn’t as low-risk as many people think. When it comes to legal transactions, a little foresight and awareness can go a long way!


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