Understanding Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA): How landlords give back to U.S. servicemembers

As a landlord of rental property leased to active servicemembers of the U.S. forces, or as a service member renting or leasing a home, it’s important to be aware of a special Maryland rental military clause that applies to such leases. Provisions in the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) govern how active-duty members, under specific circumstances, may break their leases. Compliance with SCRA is one way that rental property owners and managers honor the service and sacrifice made by our military personnel.

Honoring Our Service Personnel

Not everyone enlists or volunteers to perform national service. However, there are ways through which those of us who don’t actively serve, can still be of service to those who do choose to serve. And one way in which rental property landlords honor service members is in the form of SCRA military rental clauses in Maryland lease agreements.

Enacted in 2003, SCRA provides legal cover to active-duty service members who must break a lease agreement to continue their service. Why might that happen? Well, if you entered a residential or business lease, and then decide to join the service; because of a change in lifestyle, it may be challenging for you to abide by the terms of such agreements that you signed prior to enlisting. Termination might be the only option available.

SCRA also entitles service members to terminate, without prejudice, a lease agreement if they receive deployment orders for a minimum of 90-days. Equally, landlords are mandated by SCRA to respect a termination request if the tenant servicemember receives an order for a permanent change of station (PCS).

Servicemembers Take Note

Active-duty servicemembers with military rental clauses in Maryland lease agreements, must also understand the implications of SCRA clauses. While landlords have certain obligations towards lessee servicemembers, it helps for service personnel to also be aware of the provisions of the law. A few things that you should remember about SCRA clauses:

  1. While the SCRA clause entitles you justifiable exit from your home rental agreement, the clauses are equally applicable to business lease agreements as well
  2. Many serving members may also be surprised at this second fact: SCRA also entitles you early termination of leases that you may have signed prior to joining the services
  3. Don’t think that simply marching to the property management office, with your orders in hand, entitles you a break in your lease agreement. The Maryland rental military clause, governing such termination, only becomes effective on the last day of a month following the month in which you delivered appropriate notice to the landlord
  4. Because the termination isn’t “immediate upon notice”, landlords are entitled to receive full payment for the month in which notice is served, as well as full rent for the subsequent month.

Furthermore, SCRA is not just restricted to full-time service members. Its provisions apply equally to active-duty members of the National Guards and reservists too.  And, SCRA also includes far-reaching protection to service members covered by it, including shielding them from penalties against mortgage payments, credit card debts, taxes, pending trials – and, of course, business, and residential rental lease terminations.

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