As a Hanover County property owner, it’s vital to understand some important distinctions between renting to members of the military and other types of tenants. Certain federal laws influence the way a property owner can legally conduct business when renting to tenants who are members of the U.S. military. Whether it’s managing tenants who break their lease or are often absent for training, guaranteeing the property is safe, or collecting late rental payments. Before renting to military members, you must 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 aims to protect active military personnel and their families with certain financial and legal obligations. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) covers many situations, including an active member of the military who is renting a home. Under this federal law, landlords are required to allow a tenant to break a lease without penalty if certain conditions are met.
Let’s say 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 challenging, by law, renters cannot be punished or their security or other deposits withheld for breaking a lease owing to transfers or other service-related reasons.
Active military members are usually compelled to attend training at places throughout the country. These trainings can last as short as two weeks or as long as a month or more, depending on which branch of the military they belong to and where they have been stationed. If a tenant advises that they will be gone for training, it is critical to keep 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 case of a prolonged absence, Hanover County property managers may have worried about the security of their rental house. Vacant houses tend to invite several types of problems, from vandals to break-ins and beyond. You can check on your property often to guarantee everything is clear if you are nearby. But, suppose you are unable to perform this task. Therefore, other options may help keep your property secure during your tenant’s absence, from security systems to working with a property management company such as Real Property Management Richmond Metro to observe your property for you.
Collecting Late Rental Payments
Another federal protection the law proposes is the requirement to delay eviction proceedings for nonpayment of rent. If your tenant or one of their dependents is living in the rental house during their active military service, and the rent is $3,851.03 per month or less, then the court should give the tenant at least 90 days to deal with the issue. The SCRA does not prohibit a landlord from serving an eviction notice, but it may prohibit you from taking action against a servicemember tenant or their dependents.
Delayed Civil Court Actions
Lastly, the SCRA permits active military members to demand a stay on any civil court actions filed against them. If you have a legal dispute with your military tenant, the law indicates they may be allowed to delay that action while on active duty. Moreover, the standard statute of limitations does not apply while a military renter is on active duty. This can seriously impact the standard legal timelines for tenant/landlord disputes, so be aware of this if any issues lead to a court filing.
Renting to active military tenants needs both time and knowledge of the law. For many rental property owners unaware of the law, there are several methods to find themselves in legal trouble. Yet, working with Real Property Management Richmond Metro can help. Our team of Hanover County property managers have experience leasing properties to military tenants and are aware of all associated federal, state, and local laws. With our guidance, you can better protect your valuable investment and minimize legal complications for you and your tenant. Contact us today for more information.
Originally published on Dec 27, 2019
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