The math isn’t hard to figure out, regardless of your service branch: Renters frequently sign yearlong leases, and permanent change-of-station orders can come a few months before it’s time to start packing boxes. If that.
Service members who will need to break a lease as part of their move can rely on the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act for support. Here’s how the SCRA applies in this situation, courtesy of Military OneSource materials and other Defense Department resources:
1. Who can do it. Troops who sign a lease before going on active duty (this includes mobilization of a reserve-component member) can request its termination if they are staying on active duty for more than 90 days. Troops already on active duty can request lease termination if they receive change-of-station orders or deployment orders that will last more than 90 days.
2. How you do it. Service members must provide written notice to their landlord (or his agent) of their intent to terminate the lease. They must also provide a copy of their orders. (Keep a copy of both for your files.)
3. When to do it. Per the act, the termination “is effective 30 days after the first date on which the next rental payment is due.” The takeaway: Notify your landlord as soon as possible, and there’s a chance you may only owe one more payment, instead of two.
4. Why to do it. The act allows the lease to end without payments or fees; the landlord must treat it as is if it lasted to term. Service members remain liable for damages and other costs that would result at the end of a typical lease.
5. What else to know. The SCRA may not be your only protection: Many landlords, especially those near military installations, have military-friendly clauses in their lease agreements that may provide for even better termination terms. But other deals could include provisions where service members waive their SCRA rights; be sure to read all the fine print (though it must be in at least 12-point font, per the SCRA itself) and find legal help if needed.