Q: I have a potential tenant that is an active service member. How much can I charge this tenant as a security deposit?
A: When you rent a residential unit to a service member, you can only charge a security deposit equal to one month’s rent for an unfurnished property. If your property is furnished, you can only charge a security deposit equal to no more than two-months of rent. However, there are two exceptions to this limit:
- If the service member has a history of poor credit or causing damage to the rental property or
its furnishing or,
- If the property is rented to a group of tenants where one or more of the tenants is not the
spouse, parent, domestic partner, or dependent of the service member.
If your tenant falls into either of these exceptions, you can charge the tenant not more than two months’ rent as a security deposit for an unfurnished rental property and three months’ rent as a security deposit for a furnished unit.
Q: What is the Service Members Civil Relief Act (SCRA)?
A: The Service member Civil Relief Act (SCRA) is a law that was enacted in 2003 to provide protections to service members and to ease the financial burdens on them during periods of military service. This law includes many protections that apply to landlord/tenant relationships such as rental agreement/leases, security deposits, and evictions.
Q: When my tenant rented my condo in 2019 they were not a service member but last month my tenant informed me that he enlisted. Since the tenant was not a service member at the date the lease was signed, does he still get the protections for the Service Members Civil Relief Act (SCRA)?
A: Yes, the SCRA applies to all service members and their dependents regardless of when they entered military service.
Q: I received a notice from my tenant that they are terminating our fixed-term lease early because they received orders showing they are being deployed. Can my tenant terminate the lease early?
A: Yes, pursuant to the SCRA a tenant that has been deployed/received a station change can terminate a fix-term tenancy early by providing the landlord with the following information 1) 30 day notice in writing and 2) a copy of orders stating that they will be deployed over 90 days or are receiving a permanent change in duty station. The tenant will still be liable for the rent for the 30-day period starting on the next pay period after the written 30-day notice has been received by the landlord. For example, if your tenant gave you a written 30-day notice and copy of orders on March 15, 2020 the tenant will be liable for rent for all of March 2020 as well as 30 days of April 2020 rent.
Q: I rent one of my apartments to a service member and her husband. The service member is deployed and I have found out that the husband has started to operate a business out of my apartments, which is a breach of the lease. I served a proper notice to terminate and they have not cured the breach or moved. Can I evict them?
A: Yes, you can start an eviction against tenants that are on active military duty; however, you must disclose to the court that one of the defendants/tenants is a service member. The Court can postpone the eviction and may require the tenants to make rent payments during the postponement. You must be careful because failure to disclose that one of the defendants/tenants is in a period of military service could cause you to face liability and require you to pay attorney’s fees. You should contact an attorney to assist you with an eviction against a service member.
Q: My tenant is telling me that they are an active duty service member but I would like to make sure the tenant is being truthful. How can I check the status of a tenant military service?
A: You can check the status of your tenant’s duty status on the website https://scra-w.dmdc.osd.mil/. You may need the legal name of your tenant as well as other identification information to access their duty status. Much of the information that you will need can be found on their rental application.
DISCLAIMER: Due to COVID-19/Coronavirus, the laws are changing quickly; therefore you should consult with an attorney prior to serving a notice on your tenant.
Attorney Franco Simone, of Simone & Associates and The Landlords’ Legal Center, has been doing evictions for over 20 years. He is also an adjunct law professor at the University of San Diego. Mr. Simone’s office is open Monday – Friday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Tel: 619-235-6180, website: www.landlordslegalcenter.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.