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Military members can terminate a lease under SCRA

You have eight months left on your year-long lease. As you drive back to your apartment from your monthly drill weekend, you mull over some big news from your commander. In three months, you leave for a mobilization on the other side of the country for one year of active duty. Your rent is expensive, and you want out before you leave. What do you do?

Service members in the reserve and guard branches of the armed forces are protected under the law while on duty. The often last-minute nature of mobilizations and deployments can upset the balance between civilian life and part-time military service.

While you might be aware of the benefits of USERRA or FMLA to protect your career and family, military members who lease or rent property in New York City are also granted certain rights while on active duty.

What is the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act?

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) protects military personnel from being sued in civil court while on active duty and for up to a year after returning home. This law also allows servicemembers to terminate a lease without penalty when given orders to active duty. How does this process work?

How to terminate a lease when called to active duty

Fortunately, the process is relatively easy for servicemembers to terminate a lease and can be done in three steps:

  1. Notify your landlord verbally or in writing as soon as possible.
  2. Provide them with a move out date.
  3. Give them a paper copy of your orders.

Servicemembers may be responsible for up to one month of rent payment after the move out date. However, you should still receive your security deposit back after leaving.

How a real estate attorney can help

A lease is a civil agreement between two private parties. Because the military is not involved in this agreement between you and your landlord, any dispute is best handled by a real estate attorney in a civilian court.

Servicemembers can get help from a real estate attorney in understanding SCRA, dealing with repercussions from a landlord or earning a security deposit back after termination.

Receiving orders to mobilize or deploy is a stressful situation for almost every reserve or guard member, and a landlord shouldn't be making it tougher. That is why the SCRA and real estate attorneys are there to help.

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