Samuel F. Wright

Captain, JAGC, USN (Ret.)
Director, Service Members Law Center
(800) 809-9448, ext. 730
Email: swright@roa.org
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LAW REVIEW 1079

Congress Strengthens SCRA Provision on Terminating Lease of Premises or Vehicle upon Activation, Deployment, or PCS Orders

By Captain Samuel F. Wright, JAGC, USN (Ret.)

4.2—Right To Terminate a Lease or Contract upon Mobilization

On October 13, 2010, President Obama signed into law the Veterans’ Benefits Act of 2010 (VBIA-2010), Public Law 111-275.  This important new law makes several welcome amendments to the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) and the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA).

Congress enacted the SCRA in 2003, as a long-overdue replacement for the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act (SSCRA), which can be traced back to 1917.  The SCRA is codified in title 50, United States Code Appendix, sections 501-596 (50 U.S.C. App. 501-596).

The SSCRA has long provided the right to terminate a lease on premises (apartment, house, office, etc.) upon entering active duty or upon deployment or Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders.  In 2003, the SCRA extended this provision to give the service member the right to terminate a lease on a vehicle.  Vehicle leases did not exist in 1917.

The SCRA provision on terminating leases is 50 U.S.C. App. 535.  Section 301 of VBA-2010 amends subsection (e) of section 535 to read as follows:

``(e) Arrearages and Other Obligations and Liabilities.--

            ``(1) Leases of premises.--Rent amounts for a lease

        described in subsection (b)(1) that are unpaid for the period

        preceding the effective date of the lease termination shall be

        paid on a prorated basis. The lessor may not impose an early

        termination charge, but any taxes, summonses, or other

        obligations and liabilities of the lessee in accordance with the

        terms of the lease, including reasonable charges to the lessee

        for excess wear, that are due and unpaid at the time of

        termination of the lease shall be paid by the lessee.

            ``(2) Leases of motor vehicles.--Lease amounts for a lease

        described in subsection (b)(2) that are unpaid for the period

        preceding the effective date of the lease termination shall be

        paid on a prorated basis. The lessor may not impose an early

        termination charge, but any taxes, summonses, title and

        registration fees, or other obligations and liabilities of the

        lessee in accordance with the terms of the lease, including

        reasonable charges to the lessee for excess wear or use and

        mileage, that are due and unpaid at the time of termination of

        the lease shall be paid by the lessee.''.

This welcome amendment strengthens the SCRA provision on terminating leases on premises and vehicles.

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