What Is a Reverse Military Clause?

An unexpected email comes from your homeowner, and it very officially states that you and your family have 60 days to vacate the house. Not only do you have to leave the house, but you are required to fulfill the clean out and walk through obligations.

What!? In your mind, you have two more years on the lease! You’ve been paying rent diligently and there haven’t been any issues whatsoever. After a scramble to find the lease, you read each and every line to understand what exactly is going on.

And there it is. The military homeowner has added into the contract that in the event they receive orders (whether expected or unexpected) to return to the duty station their house is located near, they will return home and the occupying tenants must vacate.

The actual words in the contract are probably written in confusing legalese, but they all mean the same thing. You have to leave. Why? Because you signed a rental agreement with a reverse military clause. 

What is a Reverse Military Clause?

It is simply a clause inserted into a rental lease by the homeowner stating they will return to their house if the military assigns them orders to come home. They can amend the details, including but not limited to, how much notice they give their renters and how the security deposit is returned.

In general, it’s all legal if you've signed on the dotted line and didn’t come back with any of your own amendments to the lease. The legal sticking point may come in if your state has something to say about reverse military clauses. As with most rental housing agreements, the laws vary from state to state, so it’s imperative to become familiar with them.

The reverse military clause derived its name from its predecessor, the plain, regular military clause which was previously included in leases to alleviate financial ramifications for military members who had to move before their lease was up. Now, the military clause is used to detail the rights given to military members through the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. Some people view the SCRA as protection for renters and a reverse military clause protection for landlords.

More information about the SCRA and Military Clause

What is a reverse military clause_

The Landlord’s Perspective and Concerns

  • Most military landlords have empathy for their military tenants and hope to provide them with enough time to prepare for the displacement. There’s a possibility the homeowner didn’t anticipate having to return home, so the renter’s frustration is acknowledged.
  • The homeowner is not responsible for educating, reading, or explaining the contents of the lease to the prospective tenants.
  • Owning a rental home is a business. And because of this, homeowners view a reverse military clause as insurance for the well being of their personal and business activities.
  • Homeowners consider a reverse military clause as equal to the protections the SCRA offers military tenants.

The Tenant’s Perspective and Concerns

  • A reverse military clause is a term that is not regularly heard of, especially for renters new to the scene. There’s a good chance they’ll misinterpret the clause if it is not specifically pointed out.
  • Even if adequate time is given to find a new home, the renters are obligated to come up with what is likely thousands of dollars for another security deposit and first and last month’s rent for the new home. The previous security deposit doesn’t have to be repaid by the owner until the time referenced in the lease.
  • Because the move is not part of an official PCS, the tenants are on the hook for the costs of moving, whether it's DIY or through a company, adding even more cost to the move.
  • There’s a good chance one of the spouses will either be deployed or unavailable to help relocate the family after the reverse military clause is invoked.
  • Tenants do not see a reverse military clause as equal protection for homeowners. The homeowner doesn’t incur nearly as much as a financial burden or other ramifications as the tenants. 

Alternatives to the Reverse Military Clause

If a reverse military clause was not part of the initial signed agreement and the owner has received orders to return home, there are alternatives that could benefit both the tenant and owner.

  • After the owners have let the renters know they will not renew the lease, they could then offer the tenants the option to leave early. This may make sense for the renter’s timeline.
  • The owner could offer a monetary incentive for the renters to move before the lease term has expired. Money to pay movers or supply the next home’s security deposit are options.
  • Owners can make use of temporary storage and furnished housing until the lease expires.
  • Although likely not ideal, the homeowner could investigate renting or buying another property near their owned home.

Lease Clauses to Understand for the Future

For lease agreements in the future, both the landlord and the renter should be aware of additional clauses related to early relocation. These clauses can be negotiated or tailored to suit the needs of the homeowner and/or the tenant.

  • A Buyout Clause is written to offer the option for the owner or the seller to buy out the lease before the agreed upon terms of the lease have occurred. This could help renters if their SCRA protections are not valid.
  • A Break Lease Clause allows the owner or the renter to exit the lease under agreed upon terms. For example, 90 days’ notice is given with an additional break lease fee equal to 3 months’ rent.
  • A Sale Clause provides the owner the option to give the renter a specified amount of time, such as 90 days, before selling the house. The owner could add this clause into the lease to avoid any penalty for breaking the terms of the lease.

It is strongly advised before signing or including any type of custom clause into a lease that you review the contents with a legal professional, especially because state laws regarding rental homes vary so much.

In conclusion, there are a couple of big takeaways to remember regarding a reverse military clause. The clause has to be written into the lease for it to be enacted. Renters—if you are uncomfortable about potentially being surprised by having to leave the house early, then don’t sign the lease!

Renters and owners, be good and fair to each other and ALWAYS READ THE LEASE! A couple of times! If you need a legal document resource, check out the options MilitaryByOwner partner U.S. Legal Forms has available.

Ask These 10 Questions Before Signing a Lease