The transient nature of military service – with military families moving every 2 or 3 years – has both positive and negative implications for landlords. In addition to a regular influx of new potential tenants to the area, your tenants will likely receive orders and need to move. As we approach this PCS season, here are some things to consider when your military tenant tells you they have PCS orders.
Turnover is a a given when managing a rental property, and can be one of the most challenging tasks. It requires balancing the needs of your current tenant, the tasks of preparing the property for the next tenant, marketing the property, and working with the new tenant. Managing this process effectively means reducing the time and expense of turnover while maintaining a positive relationship with both your current and future tenants.
So, what do you do first?
- Determine if SCRA provisions apply to your situation. Be sure both parties agree on the vacancy date.
- Establish your current tenant’s timeline so you can establish your marketing plan and post your listing on AHRN.com to reach the broadest pool of potential applicants.
- Be sure to clearly communicate the vacancy process, including; vacancy date, final inspection, and handling of the security deposit. The more communication, the better chances for a smooth transition for both parties.
Know the Law
Federal Law, 50 U.S.C. App. Section 535, known as the Servicemember Civil Relief Act (SCRA), permits men and women in the military and their families to terminate their lease for either a PCS or a deployment longer than 90 days. But, there are restrictions and requirements that apply.
- The service member must provide written notice of the intent to invoke termination rights under the SCRA to their landlord, and provide a copy of the deployment or PCS orders. Sometimes, orders do not come through within the timeline required by the SCRA, even when the service member has been notified of their impending departure. Service members are usually advised to get a letter from their commander when orders are late.
- The lease termination is effective 30 days after the next rent payment is due. So, if your tenant’s rent is due on the first of the month, and notice is delivered on April 7, the termination date will be May 30th.
- Landlords can’t penalize service members for terminating their lease under the SCRA and must return all rent collected for periods after the termination date. A security deposit cannot be withheld as a penalty (except to cover damage above ordinary wear and tear) if the tenant provides timely written notice.
- To invoke SCRA protections, the service member’s name must be on the lease. If the lease was signed in his or her name with a power of attorney, the service member is considered on the lease. Some state laws (and many court cases) will extend SCRA protection in cases where the lease was for the use of the service member, even when he or she is not on the lease. In those cases, consulting a lawyer is a priority.
What about a military clause?
In communities near military installations, landlords may include a “military clause” of some kind in their leases to address common situations that arise for military tenants. On base housing availability, an outline of how to submit notice in the case of orders/deployment or other options common to residents at your location are potential topics included. Note, your tenants are still entitled to the SCRA protections whether or not your lease includes a military clause.