Office of the Staff Judge Advocate
521 Fraim Street
Fort Detrick, Maryland 21702
Renting Off Post? Include a "Military Termination Clause" in the Lease
Military personnel and their families transferring this PCS season may consider renting or leasing an apartment or home at the next duty station. Always check with the area military Housing Office before doing so, and obtain a sample "military" termination provision to add to your lease.
Under a term lease, which is what most military personnel encounter, rent is due on a monthly basis for a specific term, with an agreed upon ending date (usually one year). A military termination clause gives a military member who must move pursuant to change of station orders the right to end the lease before the agreed ending date without paying a penalty fee, so long as the new place of duty is at least 50 miles from the current one and the move is for a period more than 90 days. Of course, soldiers with Temporary Change of Station (TCS) orders whose family wants to stay in the apartment or house would not invoke the military clause, and the lease would continue.)
To protect landlords, military clauses ordinarily require that notice to terminate be provided in writing, include a specific proposed ending date, and be accompanied by a copy of the military orders or an official letter from the tenant's commanding officer. The orders must specify when the move is to occur (such as "report no later than 15 July" and how long the period will last. In addition, military clauses often state that the lease will terminate 30 days from the next date that rent is due. For example, if rent is paid on June 1st and the military tenant wants an ending date of June 30, written notice must be received no later than June 1. If notice is provided on June 2, the military tenant will still be liable for rent for the month of July. However, in Maryland the lease terminates 30 days from the date notice is given, so long as the notice is accompanied by military orders. So, given the last example, if rent is due on June 1, and notice with orders is provided on June 2, the lease terminates on July 2 and the military tenant pays for only one day of July.
If the landlord will not agree to include a "military" termination provision, the place to go for help is the local housing office. Most apartments located near military installations offer military clauses as a condition to remaining on the local housing office's apartment list. The next place to go is the local legal assistance office to see if a military clause is required by law. Maryland is one of only eight states that requires landlords to terminate residential leases for military personnel who are transferred, retire, or otherwise depart the service. If the state where you will be living does not have such a law, you may wish to consider renting from a different landlord.
A provision allowing for early termination to take on-post housing is not a standard provision in military clauses and may take some negotiating with the landlord. Consider offering an amount equal to a half-month's rent or a month's rent for the right to terminate and move on post. Avoid clauses that require 60 days notice to terminate early, since the military Housing Office will rarely give more than 30 days notice that quarters on post are available. Obtain, a change in writing before signing the lease.
Hopefully these tips will ensure that your next housing decision is a wise one, and one that accommodates the constantly changing geographic demands of a military career. To obtain more information on military clauses and renting off-post in general, visit the Fort Detrick Legal Assistance located at 521 Fraim Street. The Fort Detrick Legal Assistance Office helps soldiers, family members, and retirees in legal matters. You can reach the office at 301-619-2065.