Military relocation is a unique aspect of the rental side of the real estate market. Anyone who has been waiting for a hard copy of orders knows that it makes it very difficult to search for housing at your next duty station. I am certain there is no shortage of military families that have stories about a last minute change of orders and the upheaval that ensued afterward. In fact, we recently received an email from one of our customers who faced a difficult situation due to a change of anticipated orders.
Debbie had written to us explaining that she and her husband were anticipating a move to Ohio once he accepted a government job post retirement. With Debbie being a planner and excited about their upcoming move, she began to look for her perfect home in March for a July move. She found a fantastic home through MilitaryByOwner and quickly signed a lease agreement.
Unfortunately, the job that would take them to Ohio fell through and now they were faced with the difficult task of notifying the homeowner that they would have to break the lease. Debbie and her husband had put down a $1900 deposit to secure the home and were hopeful that the homeowner would be sympathetic to their situation and return the money once they were able to rent the home to another family. However, this was not the case and they have yet to have the security deposit returned to them. While Debbie feels that she may have jumped the gun and began her home search too early, something would have protected them in the event that their orders changed.
While the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act states the parameters of terminating a lease agreement, including the clause directly in your lease agreement is the easiest way to protect you as both a tenant and a landlord. The Military Clause clearly states what you and the landlord agree to in the event something changes with your status. It is also important to make sure that, if you are married, the Military Clause covers your spouse in the event that you are not in a position to execute the termination of lease. Here is a sample of a standard Military Clause.
IN THE EVENT the Tenant is, or hereafter becomes, a member of the United States Armed Forces on extended active duty and hereafter the Tenant receives permanent change of station orders to depart from the area where the Premises are located, or is relieved from active duty, retires or separates from the military, or is ordered into military housing, then in any of these events, the Tenant may terminate this lease upon giving thirty (30) days written notice to the Landlord.
The Tenant shall also provide to the Landlord a copy of the official orders or a letter signed by the tenant's commanding officer, reflecting the change, which warrants termination under this clause. The Tenant will pay prorated rent for any days (he/she) occupy the dwelling past the first day of the month.
The damage/security deposit will be promptly returned to the tenant, provided there are no damages to the premises.
Landlords and tenants, please take the time to review the laws of the state where the home is located and include the appropriate wording in your lease agreement. Hopefully, this will ease the pain if you find yourself in a difficult situation similar to Debbie. As she summed it up, “Military moves can be very uncertain and it is hard to know if situations will change. It was an extremely stressful situation."