Members of the armed forces can make great tenants, but you should first understand that military servicemen and women have special federal rent protections. These protections can have an impact on the eviction process and security deposits, and they may present you with other legal challenges. Here is information about the laws that benefit military service members and what you need to know about them.
Servicemembers Civil Relief Act
Perhaps the most important law you should be familiar with is the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). Although the law provides a variety of protections for active duty service members and deployed armed forces members, one of the most important elements for you to understand is a provision regarding leases. This provision allows any service member to immediately terminate a lease with you if they are deployed or sent to a new military base.
This provision only applies if the service member's transfer or deployment lasts longer than 90 days. In such circumstances, you may not keep a military member’s security deposit, and you will have no recourse to bring legal action against the military member for breaking the lease agreement. Remember that the SCRA also applies to service members’ family and dependents.
Evicting a Military Service Member
The SCRA also provides additional protections for military members in relation to evictions. Under these provisions, you may not evict a military member from your rental property if your tenant’s military service has had an impact on his or her rent payments.
You may still evict military members, but it may be much more difficult if they can prove their military service has interfered with their ability to pay you on time. Courts may also put a hold on your eviction, which can last up to three months, regardless of what state you live in.
There are important considerations that every landlord should be aware of in relation to SCRA provisions. For example, service members paying over $3,220 per month on their rental property as of 2014 are not covered by the SCRA. This amount may change depending on the year, as it is designed to reflect cost of living and inflationary changes. Furthermore, this federal law does not cover military reservists and National Guard members on “drilling status."
In situations in which a National Guard member is deployed to a national emergency, such as hurricane or earthquake relief, it has historically been the case that the member will be covered under the SCRA as well.
Requesting Deployment Orders
It is your right to request a copy of any deployment or transfer orders to verify that your tenant is actually being deployed. It is recommended that you do this to ensure your tenant is rightfully covered under the SCRA. Your tenant is required to provide you a copy of their orders upon leaving your property, so make sure everything is being performed according to protocol.
Pursuing a Waiver
You may also request that your military tenant waives his or her rights under the SCRA law, but be aware that many states have laws similar to the SCRA, and some state laws are even more beneficial for military service members. Just because a member waived his or her rights under the SCRA doesn’t mean that state law won’t also apply. Some states also forbid landlords from waiving military tenant rights related to the specific state law provisions, so research the military service member laws in your own state to be on the safe side.
Ultimately, there are many good reasons to have a military tenant on your property, but you should be aware how the SCRA can impact your landlord-tenant relationship. This will help you better prepare for any complication that may arise while renting to a military member and their family.
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