Here’s When Military Tenants Can Break A Lease Early

As a military tenant, there are times when it is appropriate for you to break your lease. So, we spoke with attorney Robert Jameson about when members of the military are permitted to break a lease early.

The Servicemember Civil Relief Act states that in certain circumstances, service members can terminate a lease agreement early. These circumstances are:

  1. Deployment for greater than 90 days.
  2. Permanent Change of Station (PCS).

Note that the PCS orders must be for outside the area. So, if you are here at NAS Jacksonville and you get orders to go to Naval Station Mayport, that likely won’t be applicable under the Servicemember Civil Relief Act. But if you are moving out of state, it’s an option you can certainly use. 

Navy legal assistance can help you assert your rights under the Servicemember Civil Relief Act. But most landlords here in Jacksonville are very familiar with the provisions contained in the law and are willing to work with you.

It is important not to forge your orders simply to get out of a lease agreement. Again, a lot of homeowners here are former military. They recognize that they have the ability to go to your command and present the orders to determine whether or not they’re valid. Plus, forging orders is a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice Act

So, if you are a renter and you need to break your lease, reach out to your property manager. Many times an owner will be willing to work with you.

Tips for breaking your lease early as a military tenant

Breaking a lease early as a military tenant can be challenging, but there are steps you can take to minimize the impact and navigate the process smoothly:

  1. Review Lease Terms: Carefully review your lease agreement to understand the terms and conditions for early termination. Look for clauses related to military deployment, relocation, or lease termination, as well as any penalties or fees for breaking the lease early.

  2. Provide Official Orders: If you are breaking your lease due to military orders for deployment, relocation, or change of duty station, provide your landlord with a copy of your official military orders as soon as possible. Most leases include provisions allowing for lease termination in these circumstances.

  3. Give Proper Notice: Notify your landlord in writing of your intent to break the lease early, citing the applicable military clause or provisions in your lease agreement. Provide sufficient notice according to the terms of your lease or state law, typically 30 to 60 days.

  4. Negotiate with Landlord: Try to negotiate a mutually agreeable solution with your landlord, such as finding a replacement tenant to take over the lease or reaching a settlement on lease termination fees. Explain your military obligations and the reasons for breaking the lease early.

  5. Document Communication: Keep records of all communication with your landlord regarding the lease termination, including emails, letters, and phone calls. Document any agreements or arrangements reached with your landlord in writing to avoid misunderstandings later on.

  6. Understand Financial Obligations: Be aware of any financial obligations associated with breaking the lease early, such as paying a termination fee, forfeiting your security deposit, or remaining liable for rent until the end of the lease term or until a new tenant is found.

  7. Seek Legal Assistance: If you encounter difficulties or disputes with your landlord regarding the lease termination, consider seeking legal assistance from your base legal assistance office or a qualified attorney specializing in landlord-tenant law. They can provide guidance and represent your interests in negotiations or legal proceedings.

  8. Follow Proper Procedures: Adhere to any specific procedures or requirements outlined in your lease agreement or state law for breaking the lease early. Failure to comply with these procedures could result in additional fees, penalties, or legal consequences.

  9. Consider Military Protections: Familiarize yourself with the protections afforded to military tenants under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), which may provide additional rights and benefits related to lease termination and other legal matters.

  10. Plan Ahead: Whenever possible, plan ahead and communicate with your landlord well in advance of your intended move date. This allows both parties to make arrangements and ensures a smoother transition for everyone involved.

By following these tips and communicating effectively with your landlord, you can navigate the process of breaking a lease early as a military tenant with minimal stress and complications.