The Service Member Civil Relief Act serves two goals:
1. It protects military tenant from last minute PCS, deployment orders, and in some states, the ability to move on base.
2. It also provides clear guidelines for the landlord on how to enforce it. This creates a very black and white policy for enforcement. As discussed in 3 ways to break a lease with the SCRA, the SCRA can be used more than just PCS orders.
Over the past couple of months I have seen a lot of confusion over how notice is provided and when a tenant can move out. Notice counts when written orders are provide. While “heads” up notice is amazing, SCRA does not start until written orders are placed in the landlord’s hands with a move out date! The question I always see is in regards to what this means for the tenant AND the landlord. Therefore I have broken it down to explain how this law affects both the tenant and the landlord.
This is YOUR protection to make sure you have as MUCH notice as possible. Therefore until you are given written orders with a DATE the clock does not start!
Tenant tells you in February they are expecting orders this summer. Then on May 5th they give you orders and move out the 15th. The heads up does NOT count as notice. The law (unless the specific state is more strict) provides you rent until Jun 30th as it specifically states WRITTEN orders must be provided! Make sure you are charging the tenant and not releasing them early. If you do release them early that means you will have unnecessary vacancy expense. The SCRA requires this notice to provide YOU the landlord SOME protection so take advantage of it.
Note- I personally enforce this strictly. The SCRA provides a lot of protection to the tenant. As a landlord this is also my protection. Therefore I require it. I know military members get last minute orders; unfortunately that happens. Just like we, as landlords, can’t charge more when we get more expenses than normal, or break the lease because market rent has increased $300.
Your clock does not start till you give WRITTEN notice with orders. Therefore as soon as you have orders and provide notice to your landlord with a date, your notice starts. Unless your state is more strict Federal law requires 30 days from the next rent check.
Example: (Assumption: Rent is Due the 1st)
You give Notice Jan 30th so your last day of rent obligation is Feb 28th.
You give Notice Feb 3rd so your last day of rent obligation is March 31st!
While every landlord respects and appreciates a heads up, it does not count till you give a date AND orders. Once you give a date, you have given notice. At this point the the landlord has every right to release the home for rent. A bit of caution as both the spouse of an military service member who has moved a lot AND who is also a landlord, make sure you give the date you KNOW you are ready to leave. Once that house is re- rented, the landlord doesn’t have a legal obligation to move the date. They usually cannot because they have a contractual obligation with their new tenant.
What has been your experience?
*Note- The Serivce Member Civil Relief Act is a FEDERAL Act. While states cannot minimize any of the specifications under the Act they can make it stronger. Many states, Florida specifically, have done so. So be sure to check your local state laws.0