The transient nature of military service, with military personnel and families moving every few years whether they like it or not, has upsides and downsides for landlords. You’re guaranteed a regular influx of new potential tenants to the area, but your tenants will also eventually receive PCS orders requiring them to move. The prime PCS season is still a few months away, but it’s never too early to start thinking about this sort of stuff. Ergo, here are some things to know for the next time one of your military tenants gets their orders.
Property Managers & Military Rental Turnover
The turnover process is typically one of the more challenging parts of managing a rental property. It requires equal attention paid to the needs of your current tenant, preparing the property for your incoming tenant, marketing the property, and getting the new tenant moved in. Managing all that effectively is no easy task, but doing it efficiently and properly will reduce the time and expense of turnover. And keep your tenants, both old and new, happy.
- Determine if the outgoing tenant’s situation fits the conditions of SCRA protection. If you’re unfamiliar with the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, take some time to get to know it.
- Learn your current tenant’s timeline so that you can plan what you need to do around their moving schedule.
- When you’re sure of the exact date the property will be open, post a listing right here on AHRN.com and reach the broadest pool of potential applicants.
- Share resources like our PCS Toolkit to help your tenant have a smooth transition out of your property. An organized tenant makes your life easier, particularly during a move.
- Put together a specific and comprehensive property clearing checklist to help your outgoing tenant prep their house before they go. You can also use it to remind them of terms for emptying the house and the handling of their deposit stipulated in the lease.
The Law on Military Lease Termination
We mentioned the SCRA above but, but if you don’t have time to give it a full read right now, here’s a quick summary. Federal Law, 50 U.S.C. App. Section 535, known as the Servicemember Civil Relief Act (SCRA), permits military personnel and their families to legally terminate a lease for when they receiver orders for a permanent change of station (PCS) or a deployment longer than 90 days. Some specific stipulations necessary for a lease to be broken in under such conditions:
- The service member must provide written notice of intent to invoke termination rights under the SCRA to their landlord, plus a copy of the relevant orders. Sometimes official orders do not come through within the timeline required by the SCRA, even if the service member has been notified of them. In these cases, they usually get a letter from their commanding officer verifying their orders are coming.
- 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. Any rent collected for periods after the termination date must be returned. And a security deposit cannot be withheld, except to cover damage above ordinary wear and tear, as a sort of underhanded penalty.
- For these SCRA protections to apply, the name of the service member receiving orders must be on the lease. If the lease was signed in his or her name with a power of attorney, that counts. And some state and local laws extend SCRA protection in cases where the property was leased for use by the service member, even if he or she is not on the lease. In these murkier sort of cases cases, consulting a lawyer should a priority for you and the tenants.
In most communities around military installations, many landlords include a “military clause” of some kind in their leases to address common situations that arise with military tenants. That way, everybody involved knows what to expect in situations like a PCS or deployment-related move without having to pore over the SCRA if/when it comes up. But take note: whether or not your lease includes a military clause, your tenants are still entitled to the protections of the SCRA.
Verifying PCS/Deployment Orders
Under the terms of the SCRA briefly provided above, notice starts on the first rent due date after the landlord is provided with a copy of the orders. As we also mentioned above, service members do not always receive said orders more than 30 or 60 days before their move date. That can make things a little chaotic, especially during the busy PCS season. So it’s in the best interest of you and your outgoing tenants to communicate regularly. If a service member is still waiting for orders when the moving date draws near, have them obtain a signed memorandum from their commander on unit letterhead. Remember, this counts as written verification of the incoming orders. You even have the right to independently verify such a letter by calling the Public Affairs Officer of your tenant’s unit (which you can usually find the base directory or its MyBaseGuide). Understanding and willingness to work with your tenant during 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 word of mouth recommendations as a military-friendly landlord is your best way to build a positive reputation among the community.
A Final Tip
It is important to keep the channels of communication open with your military tenant at all times. Encourage them to keep you informed throughout their time living in your property. A solid working relationship with your tenant will mean a smoother transition for everyone when the time comes. Particularly if things don’t go according to plan. In most cases, the service member has very little control over the timing of their movements and will require flexibility in their move.