Story by Bryce Kim
JAG Corps Legal ExternThe servicemembers Civil Relief Act outlines the process for Soldiers to terminate residential leases. Specifically, under the SCRA, a servicemember must provide written notice and a copy of his or her military orders (or a letter from a commanding officer) with 30 days' notice, in order to terminate a residential lease.
Once the Soldier gives proper notice, and a copy of his or her military orders, the rent will be prorated to the effective termination date. Additionally, there is no penalty for terminating the agreement, 14 or more days prior to occupancy, if one of the following reasons applies: a Soldier receives permanent change of station orders to a location at least 35 miles away; receives temporary duty orders to a location at least 35 miles away for at least 60 days; they are released from active duty with a home of record at least 35 miles away; is ordered in government quarters; becomes eligible for government quarters and will forfeit his or her housing allowance if they do not move in; or receives orders to an area 35 miles or more distant before taking possession of the property.While the provisions to be eligible for a lease termination under the SCRA seem relatively straightforward, recently there have been instances where Soldiers have run into issues with uncooperative landlords unwilling to comply with SCRA regulations. In particular, some landlords are refusing SCRA lease terminations by claiming that Fort Stewart Family Homes do not qualify as government quarters because they are privatized and managed by Balfour Beatty, a construction contractor company. However, these claims are unfounded and should not detract nor discourage Soldiers from invoking their SCRA rights in order to comply with their orders.
Balfour Beatty became part of a project entity called Project LLC, which entered into "a ground lease with the government, applicable to Fort Stewart in 2003, which gives Project LLC a leasehold interest in the land and title for improvements on the land for a period of 50 years."The government remains the owner of on post housing. Under the agreement, the government remains the owner of on-post housing, and Balfour Beatty assumes responsibility for the "management, renovation, and development of existing housing units, as well as the development, construction, renovation and management of new units during the term of the project." Fort Stewart Family Homes are considered government quarters, and Soldiers ordered to move into on-post housing are eligible for lease terminations under the SCRA.If you have legal questions about your SCRA rights or lease, please stop by legal services. The Fort Stewart office is located at 1791 Gulick Ave., building 709. Hours are Monday - Wednesday and Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday 1-4 p.m. The Hunter Army Airfield office is located at 638 Horace Emmet Wilson Blvd., suite 101. Hours are Monday - Wednesday and Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Thursday 1-4 p.m. They are closed for lunch Monday - Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.