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December 03, 2020

Residential or Motor Vehicle Leases

Military service can sometimes require you to pack up and ship out to a new location on short notice. The SCRA permits servicemembers to easily terminate existing leases for rental property and vehicles so that they can go about their military duties without undue financial hardships. For example, a soldier with a one-year lease on an apartment is protected by the SCRA from being bound to the full one-year term of the lease if he or she is given Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders before the end of the lease term.

In order for you to receive the protections available under the SCRA, you need to follow specific rules for terminating leases. You are encouraged to meet with a military legal assistance attorney for guidance prior to terminating a lease.

How do I terminate a lease on the premises that I occupy?

If you are going into military service, you may cancel a premises lease you signed prior to military service. If you are currently in the military and receive PCS orders or orders to deploy for ninety days or more, you may cancel your premises lease.

To cancel your lease, provide your landlord a written notice of your intention to terminate, along with copies of the military orders that give cause to terminate the lease.

If you pay your rent monthly, your termination will be effective thirty days after the next due date for your rent. So if you give written notice to terminate on April 15 and your next rent payment is due May 1, your termination will be effective May 31 (so you will have to pay your May rent). If you have prepaid any rent beyond your effective termination date, if must be refunded to you within thirty days of the termination date, and you should not be obligated to pay any early termination fees. While doing so may conflict with your lease, it may be to your advantage to apply your security deposit to the last month’s rent.

I have received military orders that will take me out of the country. I have an auto lease, and I cannot take the vehicle with me. What do I do?

If you have an auto lease that you took out prior to joining the military, you may cancel that lease once entering military service with orders to serve for more than 180 days.

If you have an auto lease that you took out while you were in military service, you may cancel the lease if you receive military orders for:

  • A PCS from a CONUS location to an OCONUS location; or
  • If you are currently in Alaska or Hawaii, a PCS to any location outside of your state; or
  • A deployment lasting at least 180 days.

To cancel your lease, you must provide your creditor with written notice of your intent to terminate the lease, along with copies of the military orders giving you cause to terminate the lease. You must also surrender the vehicle within fifteen days of giving notice, and the termination is effective upon vehicle surrender. You are responsible for all lease payments on a prorated basis up to the point of surrender. Any prepaid lease payments beyond the date of surrender must be refunded within thirty days, and you are not responsible for early termination fees.