Relief Act amendment provides more protections to service members with stop movement orders
By Brian Evans | Fort Knox Legal Assistance OfficeSeptember 4, 2020
FORT KNOX, Ky. — A recent amendment to the federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) provides protections to military members who may have been impacted by the Defense Department’s stop movement orders.The SCRA contains a provision permitting a military member to terminate a premises lease or vehicle lease early under certain conditions, to include receipt of permanent change of station orders or deployment orders for a period of not less than 90 days. If a military member provides proper notice of termination under the SCRA, this provision prevents a landlord or vehicle leasing company from penalizing the military member for early termination.Unfortunately, the Defense Department’s March stop movement orders issued in response to the COVID-19 situation did not qualify as permanent change of station orders for purposes of the SCRA. As a result, some military members may have been penalized, or may still be in a dispute, if they were impacted by the stop movement order.Congress recently amended the SCRA to address this issue. The SCRA was amended to add a stop movement order as a condition that would grant military members the right to terminate a lease without a penalty.The stop movement order must be issued by the Secretary of Defense in response to a local, national or global emergency and be effective for an indefinite period, or for a period of not less than 30 days.Additionally, the stop movement order must prevent the servicemember or the servicemember’s dependents “from occupying the lease for a residential, professional, business, agricultural or other purpose.” In the case of a vehicle lease, the stop movement order must prevent the servicemember or the servicemember’s dependents “from using the vehicle for personal or business transportation.”Additionally, this protection was made retroactive to stop movement orders issued on or after March 1. This means individuals who are in a financial dispute with a landlord or vehicle leasing company over issues related to the stop movement order may be able to obtain relief through this amendment.For information and answers about the SCRA and lease termination, including termination due to a stop movement order, call the Legal Assistance Office at 502-624-2771 to schedule an appointment.