Spouses and Leases

Most of you have probably heard of the “military clause,” a generic term used to describe any parts of a lease that deals with the military and being transferred or deployed. Under the terms of the Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act (SCRA), a servicemember may terminate a lease earlier than the date named in the lease, if the servicemember gives proper notice and is terminating the lease due to a PCS move or a deployment.  It is important for military families to understand how the SCRA works, and how it does not apply to spouses, so that they can be fully protected by its provision.

First, for purposes of protection under the SCRA, the lease must be signed by the servicemember, or on behalf of the servicemember (by the use of a power of attorney.)  If a spouse enters into a lease on their own name, without the servicemember, the SCRA does not apply.  This is a really important distinction.  Let’s say Sergeant Jones is deployed, and while he is gone, the lovely Mrs. Jones moves apartments.  If she chooses to put the lease in her name alone, which is often a lot easier, they then lose all the protections in the SCRA.  But taking the extra effort of getting a Power of Attorney and using it to put Sergeant Jones on the lease, the family is now protected if they receive PCS orders.

Second, what is proper notice?  Proper notice must be written, and it must be in advance of the termination of the lease.  The Military.com SCRA Lease Termination Page explains the timeline like this:

* For month to month rentals, the termination becomes effective 30 days after the first date on which the next rental payment is due subsequent to the date when the notice of termination is delivered. For example, if the rent is due on the first day of each month, and notice is mailed on August 1, then the next rental payment is due and payable on September 1. Thirty days after that date would be October 1, the effective date of termination.

* For all other leases, termination becomes effective on the last day of the month following the month in which proper notice is delivered. For example, if the lease requires a yearly rental and proper notice of termination is given on July 20, the effective date of termination would be August 31.

Second, what defines a PCS or deployment?

A PCS is easy – you’re PCSing.  While it isn’t specified in the SCRA (that I could find), the IRS uses a distance of 50 miles further from your home than your previous job.  For deployments, the SCRA states that it has to be in excess of 90 days.  It seems reasonable to expect that a landlord might want to see copies of the servicemembers PCS or deployment orders.

In reality, there are lots of landlords who are willing to be even more flexible than the SCRA requires them to be.  However, there are also landlords that will try to squeeze every last penny out of a servicemember or their family, even when the servicemember is protected by the SCRA.  If you understand the law, and make sure to follow the details, you will have the legal standing to challenge landlords who aren’t treating you right.

I have noticed a lot of questions regarding this topic, and so I wanted to make sure that we all understood.  Similar protections apply to lots of other transactions as well.  More information can be found in the full Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.

39 Comments on "Spouses and Leases"

  1. Military Lawyer | July 1, 2010 at 11:22 am |

    Good post. Just wanted to remind servicemembers and their spouses to please contact your legal assistance office with questions if you are terminating your lease under the SCRA. It is a great tool for our military families but it is often misunderstood by landlords and families alike. Even if you don't think the Act can help you, come check with us please!

  2. FRANK MCCUTCHEON | July 16, 2010 at 4:45 pm |

    I am a retired military member and I am also a landlord. I want to make sure that I do what ie right when it comes to National Guard and Reserve members.

    The PCS portion of a "Military Clause" is a no brainer, but the deployment part is an issue. Many members of the Guard and Reserve are now getting deployed for longer than 90 days. What do I need to do to protect myself from someone abusing the "Military Caluse" and using it to get out of their lease?

    I have a potential tenant whos husband is being deployed for up to 12 months this coming September. She wants to move in 1 August. i need to have her husband sign the lease because her income alone will not qualify her for the apartment. I am requesting a letter from his command stating that he will in fact be placed on AD for an extended period, because he does not have a job otherwise. His AD income will be more than enough to cover rental expenses.

  3. sailor/marine wife | June 18, 2011 at 4:09 pm |

    I myself am active duty Navy and i just received pcs orders to va. Im currently having issues with my landlord i was not given 30 days notice before i have to report. my landlord wants me to pay for next months rent and i will only be here for one week out of the month do i have to pay for a full month? its not stated in my lease! he asked me to have my husband call him who is active duty marine corps because "he doesn't want to deal with me" I've been very respectful but dont want to pay for that if i dont have to. also he has stated he's keeping my security deposit whether or not its clean or if there are damages, and he wants to show my apartment b4 i move out… can he legaly do any of this

  4. My husband and I are looking to move into a new apartment on August 1. He is planning to join the military either right before or right after we move. Obviously once he finishes basic training and tech school we will have to move to where ever he gets stationed. Will the law protects us then or will it not apply because he chose to join after we got the apartment?

  5. can i talk to my husband when he is at basic
    training or A.I.T

  6. I got my first months rent free, but was told that if i broke contract early, then i would have to pay back that first month. since i have orders to deploy, i was thinking that it would void out ALL charges, and i was hoping that first months rent would be included, anyone have any experience with this that can help me out?

  7. My husband is retired military so I am very familiar how frustrating it can be when orders are not issued until the last minute. I am also a landlord. My frustration is that I have had a number of military members move in recently, sign the lease and start receiving BAH. I have had these members reside in the apartment for about 6 weeks and then tell me their ship is deploying and give me their notice to move. My question is this: Does their BAH continue even though they no longer live in the apartment and do not have the need for BAH? I have a feeling that some of these member are doing this to receive the BAH even though they are deployed. A 6 week rental is not worth my time or expense (cost painting, cleaning, carpets cleaned) in getting the apartment ready.

  8. Does the 90 days of deployment have to all fall with in the lease time or say if I have a month and a half left and get deployed for at least 90 days can I still leave the lease early? Thanks

  9. Al Cockerel | July 15, 2012 at 12:44 pm |

    I have a question fro the other side….. what protection is there for the landlord that the service member will not sign a year lease knowing they will get orders in three months? Please email a resonse if you know the answer to this question.

  10. I am a military member and also a landlord. I have tenants that bought a house while they still have 9 months left on their lease with me. Now are trying to abuse the SCRA to break their lease by showing me temporary deployment orders for the husband. Based on your original guidance, I have no recourse? Seems odd that the spouse, who is employed locally and is obviously not in need of moving due to military orders, could use the SCRA as a shield to defraud and default.

  11. My husband and I signed a lease in September and it included a military clause he got orders for a PCS overseas in late October. Can we get out of our year lease if I show my landlord his pcs orders because he went over last month?

  12. My husband and I are pcsing and did not receive his orders until a few weeks before his report date. According to my landlord, we have to pay all of the next months rent even though we will not be here as of the 1st. Based on the date we received his orders and his report date, we didn’t have the “proper” 30 days. Can they still charge us for that entire month even with having his orders? We had a years lease but are now going on a month by month basis. Please help!

  13. We have a husband and wife who both signed the lease. The lease ends in 6 monhts. The wife is in the military and is being deployed overseas without her husband. He is stating that he is moving to California to be by family. Should he be able to be released from the lease if he's not moving due to Orders?

  14. My husband and I pcsed to Fort Benning back in Sept.2012 and signed a year long lease. He is going to Ranger school soon (April 21st) and we're having trouble paying for things now so I was wondering if we could use the same orders we had to come to Fort Benning to get out of the lease?

  15. Today my boyfriend, an Army Ranger stationed in Georgia asked me to marry him. I said yes, but he wants me to move there of course, and I have a 12 month lease in Ohio from Aug 2013- Aug 2014 they wont allow me to simply pay a fee to get out of it unless I find a new tenant and pay a 200$ fee they wont allow me to break contract. I want to move with my husband when we get married but my rent here is $619 and I can't afford that and a rent there. Is there any protection in this case? Please help.

  16. my husband and I are leaving for kodiak and she just sent the bill of 960 which we both split down the middle however since we are leacing may 15 and not June 1 we are only paying half of the rent its only fair since we are not going to be there the entire month we gave her written notice may 29 in writing and with the militaty clause as everyone puts it which she allowed us to break our lease. However with the move to kodiak and all of its expenses we do not want to pay the full rent does she have the right to charge us the entire month of may if we arent going to be living there past the 13 techinically??? or can we ask them to take the reamining out of the security deposit thanks so much?>

  17. My Fiance and I just were recently married, I live in Colorado as she did before she went to basic. She is now stationed in Virginia and we finally made it official recently once we were able to acctually see eachother. Now the problem is i am in a lease at my apartment till next year and i am sorta confused about the sscra and military clause and if i am able to terminate the lease and move to her new duty station?

  18. My husband is deployed till Nov. our lease is up in Aug. our landlord asked if planned to renew our lease told him we planned on going month to month the lease stated until after he got back from deployment. He has since left a new lease with a letter stating that I needed to sign it or plan to move out and them rent the townhouse. Is there any protection with my husband being the one who signed the lease and him being deployed until he comes home?

  19. commissioner12 | August 8, 2013 at 5:02 pm |

    I have a renter not married to a military person.who lived together. Both signed the lease. He has been transfered and I have let him out of the lease. His girl friend does not want to live in apartment since he is not there. Moved in with a girl friend, and plans to move home at some point. I told her I would not refund her deposit because she did not give 30 day notice and broke her lease. Am I in the wrong?. Am I to give her back deposit (be out 2 months rent or more) even tho she is not spouse of military personnel. I will do what is right. Thank you

  20. my husband has been in Japan and while over there for 2 years I have been renting a house and its in my name but now we have orders and leaving I resigned the lease thinking we could get out of it due to the military clause but now since I am the only on lease we have to move and still pay on house until its re-rented! also not getting our deposit back not to happy about it, I have been a good tenant fixed everything broken never called to have things fixed did all yard work and paid rent on time just kind of rude how they treat people all because his name isn't on lease and orders aren't for me. :( I had a power of attorney but it is out of date so now that's no good what to do????

  21. Hello, I am a Landlord and have a military tenant that wants to moveout. He wants to break the lease say's he has orders but can't present them. I grew up military and my whole family has been in the military they always received orders in writing before making any moves. I requested to email or mail me a copy, he still states he doesn't have them in hand. Any advice??

  22. Question, my tenant is retiring and he wants to get out of the lease using the Under the terms of the Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act (SCRA), I assume it covers service members that are voluntarily retiring and not being forced out or PCSing?
    Next question, I had a male tenant, the service member, and a female, non-service member sign the lease. 6 months later they are married. They now both want out of the lease but the lease was signed and agreed to be the responsibility of 2 separate parties, now what? She is the spouse and can now get out of her obligations? Nice trick if this is the case???

  23. What about if a dependent enters an auto lease without the service member cosigning and the service member gets orders to PCS out of the CONUS? Can the dependent break the lease under the SCRA? The SCRA says 'Servicemembers may terminate motor vehicle leases when: lease should be for the servicemember or the member's dependents for personal or
    business transportation." Just wondering if the dependent could break the auto lease since their name would be on the PCS orders. Thanks!

  24. Report date was 7/2013…. now he wants out of the lease that he signed for his daughter (now 11/2013)… acceptable?

  25. Hi, I signed a lease awhile back when my husband PCSed to Okinawa. Unfortunately he had an unknown judgement against him so I couldn't put him on the lease at that time. I had power of attorney. If I put him on the lease now will I be covered by the SCRA for the future. Because it looks like his orders may change so that we may be PCSing over there in the future.

  26. I have a friend who owns property that she rents out. Her tenant is a military spouse, who recently gave a 30 days notice using his spouses military orders. She believes some of the information has been changed on the orders by the tenant. What can she do if anything?

  27. I just recently got married to a wonderful lady, she already renting and I moved in without giving notice to owners ? would that be a breach to the contract and give them the right to evacuate me ?? thanks

  28. Question, my husband and I signed a lease and be has deployed. While he’s deployed, u want to move home. Am I covered under SCRA to terminate our lease? I have his orders and POA?

  29. Megan Gantt | March 28, 2014 at 8:58 am |

    Hi, my husband got tdy orders to Pensacola Florida for four months and we have been stationed in Ft Bragg which is where we rent from. We have been in the rental fir six months now and our lease isnt up until October. Can we break lease with tdy orders since he will be gone so long?

  30. My boyfriend needs to move in with me until he (we) PCS in July across the country, his orders were sent in March and he PCS' in July. Are we covered if he signs the lease as a permanent tenant having already received his orders? We will likely break the lease and provide 45day advance notification. I ask because it states "sign lease AND THEN receive orders".

  31. NewMarineSpouse | May 6, 2014 at 9:32 pm |

    Does time on stationed afloat (on a MEU) qualify as a deployment for breaking a lease under the SCRA? No formal orders are generally given but the time away is 8 months +/-

  32. I work for a property management company and I have a question. We want to be fair to those who serve our country, but also fair to the owners whose property we manage.
    Recently a service member gave proper notice to vacate based on the date their orders were issued: Orders issued July 17, Notice to Vacate given August one to move out August 31st.
    However – the date they needed to report is November 6th as they are taking 75 days of leave.
    My thinking is they could have lived at the apartment at least another month; their lease didn't expire for another 6 months. Is there any type of time frame for move-out vs. report date?
    Thank you!

  33. We own a house in Illinois; it's managed by a management company. The tenants both signed the year-long lease. We knew the husband was deploying right away. Now that he's returned, he has PCS orders to Virginia. The orders clearly state that his current duty station is in OK. So, he was never stationed in IL; the wife only used the home to stay temporarily during her husband's deployment. Does the SCRA apply in a case like this? (To summarize, he received orders to PCS from OK to VA, but the property they leased is in IL, and only the wife and their son lived there.)

  34. Okay so i have a question. My fiancé is a Marine and we are trying to plan a wedding but he wants me to move into an apartment under his name that he would pay for and stay at on the weekends when he is allowed to leave the base. If we DON'T have the same last name yet, but BOTH of our names are on the lease, can we still get out of it early when they tell him he has to move???

  35. My husband's name is not on the lease. He receive PCS papers and would like the break the lease so I can join him. Landlord said I have to pay remainer of the lease term. I was told that that SCRA does not apply bc his name wasn't on the lease.

  36. I am not certain, but, it seems as though the law should protect the new military person. Especially, one he receives orders.

  37. The PCS portion of a "Military Clause" is a no brainer, but the deployment part is an issue. Many members of the Guard and Reserve are now getting deployed for longer than 90 days. What do I need to do to protect myself from someone abusing the "Military Caluse" and using it to get out of their lease?

  38. Ma'am,

    My wife and I entered into a lease with her best friend while her husband was deployed. He is in the North Carolina National Guard and returns from a 9 month deployment in April. Myself and her friend are the two people who signed the lease. She has never had a power of attorney for him. She has expressed that they may not be able to afford the bills when he comes home and they may try to break their portion of the lease with his orders that bring him from the deployment back to his home of record. We cannot afford to take on the lease alone. Is it possible for her to use his orders to break the lease without her husband's name being on the contract? Additionally, is civil court the only route for us if she just stops paying her half or is there a military route we can take? The lease is in Texas and runs from OCT 2015 to OCT 2016.

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