The transient nature of military service – with military families moving every 3 or so 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 come down on orders and need to move. As we approach the PCS season, here are some things to consider when your military tenant tells you they have orders to PCS.
Managing Military Rental Turnover as a Property Manager
The turnover aspect of managing a rental property can be one of the most challenging. It requires balancing the needs of your current tenant, the tasks of preparing the property for the next tenant, marketing the listing and getting the new tenant started. Managing this process effectively means reducing the time and expense of turnover while maintaining a positive relationship with your tenants.
So, what do you do first?
- Determine if the situation fits the conditions of SCRA protection.
- Establish your current tenant’s timeline so that you can get your listing posted on AHRN.com and reach the broadest pool of potential applicants.
- Share resources like the PCS Toolkit to help your tenant have a smooth transition out of your property (an organized tenant will make YOUR life easier).
- Offer a property clearing checklist to remind your tenant of lease terms for clearing the house and the handling of the deposit. The more specific your checklist, the better prepared they can be for your walk through.
Know the Law for Military Lease Termination
Federal Law, 50 U.S.C. App. Section 535, known as the Service member 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, plus 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 around military installations, many landlords 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 could be covered. Whether or not your lease includes a military clause, your tenants are still entitled to the protections of the SCRA.
How Do I Verify PCS / Deployment Orders?
Under the terms of the SCRA, notice does not start until the rent due date after the landlord is provided with official orders. Unfortunately, service members are not always provided with orders more than 30 or 60 days before their move date. As a landlord, you are certainly entitled to hold your tenants to the letter of the SCRA. But, especially during the busy PCS season, it might be in everyone’s best interest to be willing to work with tenants who are trying to provide you with as much notice as possible. If your service member tells you they are waiting for orders, you can request a signed memorandum from their commander on unit letterhead as written verification pending the arrival of orders. You can independently verify by calling the primary directory for the installation and requesting contact information for the Public Affairs Officer of your tenant’s unit. They should be able to direct you to the appropriate person to verify your tenant’s PCS/deployment orders. Understanding and being willing to work with one of the more stressful aspects of military service, in a way that also protects your rental property investment, is a great way to generate referrals and powerful word of mouth recommendations as a military-friendly landlord.
Something to keep in mind
It is important to keep the channels of communication open with your military tenant and encourage them to keep you informed. Even if they are issued PCS orders 60+ days before their anticipated move date, they may not be able to schedule their pack out and transportation dates until closer in. A solid working relationship and the willingness to work with your tenant will mean a smoother transition for everyone. In many cases, the military member has very little control over the timing of their movements.
We want to know:
What are your biggest challenges with turning over rental properties for new tenants?
Learn more about managing military rental property