The Service Members Civil Relief Act (SCRA) enacted in 2003 expanded on the 1940 Soldiers’ and Sailor’s Civil Relief Act. At its core, the law was written to alleviate financial stress on active duty military, with some benefits extending the military dependents. The SCRA may be most well-known by military families as providing protection with terminating a residential lease for a permanent change of station (PCS) or deployment. When a military member receives PCS orders, they can tell their landlord and break their lease without financial penalty. If their next rent is due on October 1st, and the military member tells their landlord and provides military orders on September 20th, then they pay for September and October’s rent but do not pay a penalty for breaking a lease early.
The SCRA has undergone multiple amendments since its original writing. In May of 2020, an amendment was introduced allowing for the extensions of the “lease protections for servicemembers under stop movement orders in response to a local, national, or global emergency, and for other purposes” (Congress.gov). When the pandemic hit the United States in the spring of 2020, many families across the world were gearing up for a PCS. That came to a stop. Several families had already handed in their notice to terminate their lease, and were left negotiating with landlords who may or may not have been understanding of the situation. Some families had two leases signed, one in the location they lived in, and one in the location they would be moving to as they anticipated the move. The Senate passed the amendment on 8/14/2020.
This amendment to SCRA is retroactive, meaning families can request reimbursement for rental payments that were paid during the stop movement order when they or their family was not living in the home.
The final adopted language of the amendment further states that the bill applies to service members who execute a lease upon receipt of PCS orders “for a period of no less than 90 days and thereafter receives a stop movement order issued by the Secretary of Defense in response to a local, national, or global emergency, effective for an indefinite period or for a period of not less than 30 days, which prevents the servicemember or the service member’s dependents from occupying the lease for a residential, professional, business, agricultural, or similar purpose.” Layman’s terms – if the servicemember already signed a lease but cannot reside in it due to the stop order for at least 30 days, the service member can terminate the lease with a copy of the military orders and providing that termination lease to the landlord.
To Terminate a Lease Due to Stop Move Order:
- A written notice of termination and a copy of the military orders must be provided to the landlord
- The delivery of the notice must be done in one of three ways:
- Hand delivery
- By Private Business Carrier
- Mailing the written notice in an envelope with appropriate postage with return receipt requested and addressed to the landlord or the landlord’s agent
The termination of the lease is effective on the date that all of the above is completed. READ: No 30-day notice needed if the stop movement order was the reason for the move, or lack of move.
If you or a military family you know was affected by the stop-move order, make sure they know about the new changes to SCRA.