Without question one of the best places to own residential investment property is near a military base. Because service members move around a lot, there is always a steady stream of potential tenants. While by and large, landlord-tenant law tends to be a state-by-state situation, regardless of the state in which your rental property is located, there are some specific things to know when renting to members of the military.
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act of 2003 (SCRA) governs landlord-tenant transactions with members of the military. Instituted by Congress to prevent members of the military from suffering financially because of their active duty requirements, the SCRA has provisions specifically related to the termination of residential lease agreements, protection from eviction and protection from default judgments. This is of particular interest to those engaged in property management in San Diego, because the military has such a significant presence there.
Under the SCRA, active duty service members may terminate lease agreements with 30 days of notice, regardless of the amount of time left on the lease contract when they have been permanently transferred or ordered into a deployment of 90 days or more. To do so, they must provide written notice of the impending termination, along with a copy of their orders.
In other words, they can’t just do this on a whim; they have to have been transferred to a new region, or sent out to take part in an operation lasting 90 days or more. While on base housing is usually preferred to off base housing for cost reasons, suddenly qualifying for on-base housing is not protected under the SCRA. Additionally, if they must leave their families behind when they go on deployment, landlords must honor the lease agreement as if no changes in the situation had occurred.
While we’re on the subject, military families are afforded eviction protection if it can be proven an active duty situation interferes with the service personnel’s ability to pay the rent. While it does not prevent evictions outright, it does give families time to rectify the situation before being forced to abandon the property. If you find yourself in such a situation with a military family, when you file for eviction, you must notify the court of the servicemember’s active status.
If you are so inclined, you can check up on the tenant’s deployment status on your own. The Department of Defense (DoD) posts deployment information on the official SCRA site for this purpose. While there are a number of companies out there offering this information for a fee, the DoD provides this information free of charge. If you’re only requesting one record, there is no sign-up or registration requirement. However, if your business model is predicated upon renting to members of the military, it’s a good idea to go ahead and register.
Searches will require you to have the tenant’s name, Social Security (SSN) and date of active duty status. While requests can be filed without the Social Security Number, the resulting report will be tagged with a disclaimer, as it cannot be absolutely verified without the SSN.
These are but a few of the pertinent aspects of the SCRA. While many parts of it are pretty cut and dried, some aspects require closer scrutiny. To best protect your investment, it’s a good idea to get a copy of the Act and read up on it for yourself. As with all legal matters, you’d also do well to consult an attorney well versed in landlord-tenant matters as they apply to things to know when renting to members of the military.