What Is a Military Clause?

A military clause is a provision included in a residential lease that allows military personnel to break a lease agreement and have security deposits returned if they are called to duty or must relocate due to connected service activity. It is only available to active-duty military, National Guard, and reservist members.

This provision eliminates the fear of separating families during duty-ordered relocations. It also provides a system where orders do not financially impact military personnel with the loss of deposits.

Key Takeaways

  • A military clause allows active military personnel, who either are called to duty or must relocate, to break a lease and get their security deposit back.
  • This clause is typically included in leases in areas surrounding military bases, but it is not mandatory.
  • It is only available to active-duty military, National Guard, and reservist members.

How a Military Clause Works

A military clause is a benefit available to active members of the U.S. military, the Reserves, and the National Guard. This clause is a typical element of leases in areas surrounding military bases, but it is not mandatory. By including the provision, landlords can reduce their vacancies by accommodating military tenants, but they also may find themselves in financial hardship if tenants need to break a lease.

Military personnel can invoke a military clause if they experience a permanent change of station. To do so, the active-duty member will need to present a copy of their official orders to the landlord if they want to break a written lease that still has time remaining. They also will need to give a written and signed notice of their intention to vacate the property that contains all current contact information for the service member and their commanding officer.

The letter should include a date of final residency and a request to return any security deposits. As with all documents of this nature, it is best to make and keep copies before sending the documents via Certified Mail with a request for a signed delivery receipt.

After giving a copy of the orders to the landlord, the last day of the lease will be the final day of the month following the month when the landlord received the documents. As an example, if the tenant gave their notification to the landlord in January, then the lease would end on the last day of February. Payment of rent would extend through the last day of February.

Not all rental agreements will include a military clause. It is essential to read and understand the full rental document. Also, some clauses will include a limit as to the distance that the change of station must be before the provision is in effect.

Military Clause and the SCRA

The military clause is similar to parts of the Servicemembers Civil Service Relief Act (SCRA). The act, passed in 1940, is a federal law that protects those in the military from being taken advantage of or losing property while on active duty. The SCRA protects against vehicle repossession, loss of belongings in storage facilities, foreclosures, pending court cases, credit card debts, and many other penalties that can beset transitioning service members. The SCRA is effective for both a permanent change of station and a deployment of more than 90 days.

If a service member is not able to break a lease—or if the landlord does not want to honor the SCRA—then the best course of action is to talk to the nearest military legal assistance program office. Information on where offices are located is available through the Department of Defense website.

Each state varies in its support of the military clause. In the case of a conflict, any state law will supersede the military clause.

Military Clause Example

The military clause typically states something similar to the following but may vary by contract and state:

IN THE EVENT the Tenant is, or hereafter becomes, a member of the United States Armed Forces on extended active duty and hereafter the Tenant receives permanent change of station orders to depart from the area where the Premises are located, or is relieved from active duty, retires or separates from the military, or is ordered into military housing, then in any of these events, the Tenant may terminate this lease upon giving thirty (30) days written notice to the Landlord. The Tenant shall also provide to the Landlord a copy of the official orders or a letter signed by the tenant’s commanding officer, reflecting the change, which warrants termination under this clause. The Tenant will pay prorated rent for any days (he/she) occupy the dwelling past the first day of the month. The damage/security deposit will be promptly returned to the tenant, provided there are no damages to the premises.

For example, if Pvt. River Johnson signed a lease with a landlord for one year, it might include language stating that if the tenant breaks the lease, they will forfeit the security deposit. However, if the rental contract contains a military clause, then Pvt. Johnson would still be able to receive a return of their security deposit.