FORT BRAGG, N.C. - It’s summer and for some at Fort Bragg this means time for backyard barbecues, while for others it's permanent change of station season.
As Soldiers and Families get ready to leave the area, both the XVIII Airborne Corps Legal
Assistance Office and the 82nd Airborne Division Legal Assistance Office are here to assist with
PCS legal assistance needs.
“The PCS season carries some specific legal challenges for our Soldiers and Families and we want to make sure they are prepared,” said Capt. Anthony Kratz, XVIII Airborne Corps chief of legal assistance. “This guidance is by no means exhaustive, and if a Soldier feels he or she has any kind of legal assistance issue, we want them to know the legal assistance office is here to help.”
One area where legal challenges persist is the contract and lease review process. It is important to look at the contract with the moving company and ensure all terms are agreeable.
In addition, prudence is key when reviewing the lease. The landlord has a responsibility to make the renter aware of any material problems in the rented property, including unseen defects and repairs.
Finally, renters should be aware of waivers of the implied warranty of habitability, which guarantees the rental does not have any major defects which would make living there significantly uncomfortable.
“Renters need to always be vigilant to whether or not he or she has waived his or her Service
Member Civil Relief Act Rights,” emphasized Kratz. “SCRA waivers must be done on a separate addendum to the lease agreement and cannot be folded into the boilerplate lease language.”
The SCRA provides significant protections for service members before and during time in service. It allows a service member and his or her dependents to terminate residential and vehicle leases if he or she receives orders for a permanent change of station.
For residential leases, written notice of termination and a copy of the orders must be provided to the property owner. The lease will then terminate 30 days after the next rent payment at the earliest.
Under the SCRA, landlords cannot charge early termination fees, including repayment of rent concessions or discounts. Additionally, the landlord must refund any prepayment of rent within
Vehicle leases can be terminated when a Soldier receives orders to PCS outside of the continental United States, or are living in Hawaii or Alaska and receive orders outside of those states.
The effective date of termination for vehicle leases is the date of proper notice delivery and return of the car, not to exceed 15 days. In addition, the creditor leasing the vehicle must refund capitalized cost reduction amounts to the service member.
“It’s important that Soldiers know that the SCRA provides substantially more protections for those materially affected by military service beyond PCS considerations,” said Kratz.
Another legal consideration is the Personnel Claims Act. The Personnel Claims Act can cover household goods damaged or destroyed during the PCS moving process.
The process for claiming household goods is the submission of DD 1840 Joint Statement of
Loss or Damage at Delivery and DD 1840R Notice of Loss or Damage no later than 70 days after the date of delivery. These documents constitute official notice to the contracted carrier of the losses and or damages claimed and starts the claims process.
“One of the best ways to preserve claims of destruction or damage to items being moved is to document and catalog all of the household items being moved,” said Capt. Hayley Boyd, chief of legal assistance for the 82nd Airborne Division. “Make sure to take pictures of each and every item, especially the most valuable and fragile items.”
A final legal consideration is the powers of attorney.
“Many Soldiers are familiar with POAs due to experiences with Soldier Readiness Processing,” explained Boyd. “However, many don’t know POAs can be used to delegate power to another person, known as the agent, to make decisions about property, finances, investments, or medical care for the delegator.”
If a Soldier is not present to sign legal documents such as leases, contracts, or other documents for property, he or she can provide a POA to a designated, and trusted, agent. The delegated agent does not need to be present to sign the POA but should be informed of the delegated powers. POAs can have an expiration date of up to two years.
“We know how stressful the PCS season can be,” said Boyd. “The legal side of the moving process can be arduous and mentally taxing. We are here to help our Soldiers and Families through not only the moving process but other legal assistance matters.”
For help in any of these areas or other legal assistance matters, contact either the XVIII
Airborne Corps Legal Assistance Office at 910-396-6113 or the 82nd Airborne Corps Legal
Assistance Office at email@example.com.
(Story by 1st Lt. Shelby Brown, legal assistance judge advocate, XVIII Airborne Corps and 1st Lt. Henry Carras, legal assistance judge advocate, XVIII Airborne Corps)