Can a Tenant Break a Lease Early Due to Military Orders?

Last Updated: October 11, 2023 by Phil Ahn

Tenants who belong to the military can legally break a lease early for military orders, such as being deployed or relocated. They must notify the landlords 30 days before moving out.

Breaking the Lease for Military Orders

A tenant can break their lease because of military orders. The Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act (SCRA) helps protect active service members who are relocated due to deployment or permanent change of station. Protection for service members begins on the date of entering active duty and generally terminates within 30 to 90 days after discharge.

As the SCRA is a federal law, all states are required to follow the guidelines regarding eligibility and notice requirements associated with terminating the lease.

Who Can Break Their Lease for Military Orders?

Under SCRA lease rules, the law applies to the following categories of service members:

  • Active-duty members of the regular forces including Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines
  • National Guard members called to active-duty status by federal order
  • Reservists called to active duty
  • Coast Guard members called to active-duty status in support of the armed forces

How Do Tenants Show Proof of Military Orders?

A tenant can prove or verify military orders by providing the landlord with both of the following:

  • A military ID (example)
  • Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders (exampleOR a letter from the tenant’s commanding officer (example)

Moreover, a tenant who is a service member must provide:

  • Proof the lease was signed prior to entering into active duty
  • A written notice of intent to leave because of military orders
  • Official copies of those military orders

Generally, military orders will be written on a unit letterhead with the pertinent contact information. The landlord could reach out to the provided contact or even request to speak with the administrative section of a base to corroborate that the tenant does, in fact, have orders for duty.

How to Terminate a Lease Due to Military Orders

To terminate a lease because of military orders, the tenant must provide supporting documentation within 30 days of being deployed or relocated. 

Notifying the Landlord

A tenant exercising their right to terminate the lease due to military orders must provide the landlord in writing that they intend to break the lease.

The notice should be delivered by hand if possible, sent through private courier such as UPS or FedEx or via U.S. mail with a return receipt request at least 30 days in advance of the last day of tenancy.

Lease Termination

Upon delivery of the notice, the lease is considered terminated, effective 30 days after the next rental payment due date.

Tenant Liabilities

The tenant will be liable for the remaining unpaid rent on a prorated basis. For example, if the notice was delivered on the 23rd of March, and the rent is due on the 1st of each month, the earliest the lease can terminate is May 1st. Therefore, rent is still due for the month of April.

The tenant will also be liable for any damages, such as property damages incurred during the duration of the tenancy.

Landlord Responsibilities

A landlord who violates a tenant’s right to lawfully terminate a lease because of military orders will be liable to the tenant. SCRA enforcement is brought by the Department of Justice, which litigates cases on behalf of service members.