Service members are protected by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act if they need to break their lease on account of a deployment or permanent change of station.
Understanding the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act
Your protection under the relief act begins on the date you enter active duty and generally ends between 30 and 90 days after the date of discharge from active duty. This safeguard applies to:
- Active-duty members of the regular forces
- National Guard members serving active duty status under federal orders
- Reservists called to active duty
- Coast Guard members serving on active duty in support of the armed forces
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Terminating a lease
To get out of a housing lease, under the relief act and without penalty, you must:
- Prove you signed the lease before you entered active duty, and that you will remain on active duty for a minimum of 90 days.
- Provide your landlord written notice of your intent to break the lease and a copy of your military orders, ideally no fewer than 30 days in advance.
If you signed a lease or rental agreement after you began active-duty service, you may still be able to terminate it without penalty under the relief act if you:
- Received permanent change of station or deployment orders that will last for more than 90 days
- Provide written notice to your landlord and a copy of your orders, preferably with at least a 30-day notice
If you are successful, your lease should end 30 days after your next monthly rent payment is due.
Terminating an automotive lease
Under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, National Guard and reserve service members can end automotive leases early if they are called to active duty for a minimum of 180 days.
A National Guard or reserve member may be protected if:
- Orders for a permanent change of station relocate the member to a different state
- Military orders for a PCS move the member outside of the continental United States
- The member deploys at least 180 days
- To terminate an automotive lease, members need to:
- Give the dealership written notice of the intent to break the lease and a copy of your military orders.
- Return the vehicle no later than 15 days after delivery of the written notice.
If you are successful, your lease should end the day you return the vehicle.
Knowing if there is a “military clause” in your residential lease
Familiarize yourself with the language in your residential lease. The document may include a military clause, which gives you additional protection and allows you to break the lease under certain circumstances. Such clauses are common in housing leases near military installations. If your lease doesn’t have a military clause, ask your landlord or management company if one can be added.
Getting legal assistance
If you have questions about breaking a lease, contact your legal assistance office. You can find the closest office through the MilitaryINSTALLATIONS website, or through the Armed Forces Legal Assistance Legal Services Locator application.