As a Fort Smith property owner, you should be mindful of several key differences between renting to members of the military and other types of tenants. When renting to tenants who are members of the U.S. military, there are various federal laws that govern the way a property owner can legally conduct business. Regardless of whether it’s negotiating with tenants who break their lease or are occasionally absent for training, monitoring the property‘s safety, or collecting late rental payments. Before renting to military members, you have to learn what the law says and how it may affect the landlord/tenant relationship. This can help you avoid violating your renter’s rights.
Breaking the Lease
Members of the U.S. military are covered by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), which tries to protect active military personnel and their families from some financial and legal obligations. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) applies to a variety of instances, such as an active member of the military who is renting a house. Under this federal law, landlords are required to allow a tenant to break a lease without penalty if certain circumstances are met.
For illustration, if military personnel receive orders of transfer (deploy or induction) more than 35 miles from the property, a discharge, or a loss of life, they can legally break their lease. While honoring a military tenant’s request to break their lease can be problematic, by law, renters cannot be charged or their security or other deposits withheld for breaking a lease due to transfers or other service-related events.
Active military members are often forced to participate in training at various sites around the country. Depending on which branch of the military they belong to and where they have been stationed, these trainings can last as short as two weeks or as long as a month or more. If a tenant informs you that they will be out for training, it is vital to bear in mind that even an extended absence is not grounds for eviction or other legal action. As long as the tenant intends to return to the property and continues to fulfill the lease terms, a landlord must do the same.
Securing the Property
In the event of an extended absence, Fort Smith property managers may have anxieties about the security of their rental house. Vacant houses tend to attract many kinds of issues, from vandals to break-ins and beyond. You can check on your property constantly to confirm that everything is clear if you are nearby. Assume, however, that you are not incapable of doing so. In that scenario, additional options may help keep your property secure during your tenant’s absence, from security systems to appointing a property management company such as Real Property Management First Choice to take care of your property for you.
Collecting Late Rental Payments
Another federal protection the law offers is the obligation to delay eviction proceedings for nonpayment of rent. If your tenant or one of their dependents is staying in the rental house during their active military service, and the rent is $3,851.03 per month or less, then the court should grant the tenant at least 90 days to deal with the issue. The SCRA does not restrict a landlord from serving an eviction notice but may restrict you from taking action against a servicemember tenant or their dependents.
Delayed Civil Court Actions
Finally, the SCRA allows active military members to ask for a stay on any civil court actions that may be brought against them. If you have a legal dispute with your military tenant, the law states that they may be able to delay that action while on active duty. Additionally, the usual statute of limitations does not apply while a military renter is on active duty. This can significantly alter the expected legal timelines for tenant/landlord disputes, so it’s important to keep that in mind should any dispute lead to a court filing.
Renting to active military tenants needs both time and awareness of the law. For many rental property owners who are unfamiliar with the law, there are numerous methods to find themselves in legal trouble. However, acquiring Real Property Management First Choice can be advantageous. Our team of Fort Smith property managers have experience leasing properties to military tenants and are fully aware of all relevant federal, state, and local laws. With our support, you can better protect your valuable investment and avoid legal complications for you and your tenant. Contact us today for more information.
Originally published on Dec 27, 2019
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