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Breaking a Lease With Military Orders: ETS, PCS

Olivia Hatherley is a property management professional in the state of Texas.

Some Points to Consider

There are 2,278,895 service members in the United States today between active duty and reserve branches. Many of these men and women at arms will have to terminate a residential lease contract at least once during their enlistment due to receipt of military orders. The U.S. Service Members Civil Relief Act protects the rights of our military personnel and their families and outlines the circumstances and procedures under which a service member may terminate his or her lease.

Many members of our armed forces are concerned about having a broken lease when they come up on orders. This is often amplified if there is an absence of a military clause in their lease. Regardless of whether the clause is included in their lease or not, all military personnel are entitled to vacate their rental home or apartment for PCS, ETS, or deployment orders.

To terminate a contract under the military clause, the service member must give written notice of at least thirty days. The timing for submitting the notice is extremely important as the lease contract will be terminated thirty days after the date on which the next rental payment is due. What that means is if G.I John wishes to vacate his apartment on July 31st and he submits his notice on July 1st, he has fulfilled the requirements for giving notice. However, if he waits until July 2nd, he may no longer list July 31st as his move-out day. He must designate August 31st and pay through that day regardless of what day he will actually be leaving.

The concern this raises is, "what if I don't get my orders in time to put in my notice?" The timing of the orders is not nearly as important as the time frame to submit the notice. As long as ETS, PCS, or deployment orders are provided to the rental office prior to moving out, it makes no difference if you had them in your hand when you put in your notice.

Some service members think they may terminate their lease if they get approved for on-base housing, while others feel they may terminate if they get chaptered out of the military for some type of negative action. This is absolutely false. The SCRA only lets the service member terminate for the reasons listed above. It also will not allow the service member to terminate if the PCS is less than 90 miles away or if the deployment is for less than 90 days. Additionally, should the service member be living with someone he or she is not married to or parent of, only the service member will be allowed out of the contract. The remaining leaseholder(s) would still be responsible for the remainder of the lease term.

In order to ensure that a lease is terminated properly and will not be deemed a broken lease, the service member must:

1. Put in their notice as outlined previously.

2. Submit their ETS, PCS, or deployment orders on or before the day they vacate.

3. Pay through the date on their notice of intent to vacate regardless of what day they actually leave.

4. Return the keys to the house or apartment. Failing to do so means the possession of the home or apartment was never returned. The rental company will continue to bill you until they mark the unit as abandoned, at which point you left owing rent. This classifies their move out as a broken lease.

The military is protected in the ways previously described under federal law. A rental company cannot deny the rights of a service member to terminate under the military clause simply because their lease does not contain this information. It is the law regardless of the state in which you reside. For more information regarding terminating a residential lease for military orders, refer to the U.S. Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


William on May 27, 2017:

As I am a previous service member, I have to agree with the landlords on this issue. Just because your have served your country does not give you the right to leave a hose with 4 days notice, as with all you absentminded people to think that the service member deserves the right to vacate a home prior to making some kind of proper notification shows that you truly don't care for the people that offer their apartments, or homes up for those who serve, as well I have seen many soldiers underneath me not care about the apartments they live in, as well as I have seen good soldiers live dirty, there is a reason why people are trying to make a few extra dollars off of the people living in their homes. If the service member goes though all the right steps, for proper notification than this would not be an issue. And if you truly still have a problem with the service member not getting the Honored your country deal because the landlord is holding them to an extra month's rent you can always donate to those soldiers that are looking to walk away from someone's investment.

stephfish on March 26, 2014:

Is this article on a state (Texas) level or on a federal level? I am currently in a situation where my husband is being medically discharged and we are to be moving 111 miles away. We currently live in WA and I have a clause in my lease that I interpret as my landlord is expecting an additional month's rent after the 30 day period is done... is she misinterpreting a federal law or is this different on a start-co-star basis?

worst on June 17, 2013:

terrible landlord for using this information to purposely get more money out of a service member.

Opinion on August 02, 2012:

You choose your career and are fighting a war I am against fighting other countries battles that ends up biting us at times in the US butt.

soldier on July 20, 2012:

Way to serve your country their landlord

Eleanor on June 06, 2012:

thank you! my tenants gave notice 4 days ago that they are moving out in a week. i intend to deduct from their security to make up for the lost rent as they only made partial payment this month to cover thru the date of move out.

autolease from Amsterdam on February 19, 2012:

Nice article