By Brian Evans, Fort Knox Legal Assistance OfficeJune 16, 2017
Renting a home or apartment while stationed at Fort Knox can seem easy enough at first, but remember, renting has its potential pitfalls. Below are some tips on signing a lease and moving in and out of a new residence.
WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE SIGNING
The cities and counties surrounding Fort Knox, with the exception of Louisville/Jefferson County, have not adopted the Kentucky version of the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act. Therefore, if the person doesn't live in Louisville/Jefferson County, Kentucky law gives them virtually no rights as a tenant unless they are specified in the lease.
For example, Kentucky common law does not require the landlord to make repairs if something needs to be fixed.
It's vital to have a written agreement between the tenant and the landlord that has been thoroughly reviewed by the individual signing it. It will dictate the tenant's rights, obligations, and duties for as long as they live in that residence. It is a contract and it is binding. Legal review of the lease is an option. The Fort Knox Legal Assistance Office provides walk-in reviews of unsigned leases at 3 p.m. daily.
Additionally, it is possible to add language to the lease. The federal Service members Civil Relief Act may provide some protection regarding ending a lease early, but it does not cover every situation in which a Soldier might need to terminate a lease - e.g. extended temporary duty or availability of on-post housing. Therefore, a service member should request that the landlord allow additional terms in the lease outlining what other situations might warrant early termination. These additional terms regarding terminating a lease for military reasons are often known as "military clauses." The Legal Assistance Office has a military clause available for pick up during regular office hours.
Many leases state that a tenant accept the premises as you find them. Also, noting the condition of the property before taking possession will keep the landlord from claiming that pre-existing damage was the renter's fault. Conducting a thorough walk-through before accepting possession is a great way to protect oneself.
The tenant should go through the entire residence thoroughly and write down anything that looks damaged or is not functioning properly. For example, turn all appliances and lights on and off to insure they work. Check heating, air conditioning and water to insure all work well.
The best way to document most damage is to write it down on an inspection sheet, then take pictures with a camera that will put a time stamp on the picture itself. Print the pictures and attach them to the inspection sheet the landlord should provide. The tenant should keep a copy for their personal records.
TERMINATING THE LEASE AND MOVING OUT
The SCRA permits termination of leases if the service member receives Permanent Change of Station orders or orders in support of a military operation for not less than 90 days.
To invoke this protection, written notice must be provided along with a copy of their orders. If orders are not yet available, a letter from the service member's commander verifying their current or future military status is acceptable. Termination is effective 30 days after the next rental payment is due.
If the SCRA does not apply and one wishes to terminate his/her lease in a timely manner, make sure and follow some important rules:
-Advise the landlord in writing of the decision to terminate. Besides being good practice, many leases contain requirements that written notice be provided by a certain date or the lease automatically renews and the tenant has to pay damages, or both.
-Read the lease to understand what the landlord requires upon move-out. Failure to comply with those requirements could mean losing some or all of the security deposit, or suffering additional claims beyond the security deposit.
-Do a written walk-through at the end of the lease with the landlord. If the two parties can agree on a single list of damages, that is fine; if an agreement can't be made, then keep a separate list as backup.
If problems are anticipated at the walk-through, it may also be helpful to have a neutral third party there as a witness.
If you have any questions regarding landlord-tenant issues, contact the Fort Knox Legal Assistance Office at (502) 624-2771 to schedule an appointment.