Military Housing Laws and Rules Every Landlord Needs to Understand
July 14, 2023
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A Guide To Military Housing Laws
As a landlord, there are rules and laws you need to understand if you rent to military tenants.
Let’s look at some of these military housing rules and laws below.
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act
The SCRA is a United States federal law that offers protections to active-duty military members in various areas of their lives, including housing. Landlords must comply with the SCRA, which includes provisions such as restrictions on eviction proceedings, lease termination rights, and protection against lease penalties due to military deployments.
Read our article here that provides more detail on the SCRA and what it is.
Currently, the Fair Housing Act doesn’t include veterans and military members as protected classes. Due to a lack of protection in this area, some veterans and military personnel are denied housing.
However, The Fair Housing Improvement Act (currently a bill) would add veterans and military status to the list of protected classes. This means that landlords would no longer be able to deny a prospective tenant who uses payment like HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) vouchers based on their status.
As things stand now, here are some key aspects you need to know about discrimination laws and military housing right now:
- Equal Treatment: Landlords must treat military members and their families the same as any other prospective tenants during the rental application process. They cannot impose additional requirements or conditions solely based on military status.
- Lease Terms and Conditions: Military members should be offered lease terms and conditions that are comparable to those offered to non-military tenants. They should not face unfavorable or discriminatory lease terms solely because of their military obligations.
- Eviction and Termination: Landlords cannot evict or terminate a lease agreement solely due to a tenant’s military service or deployment. The SCRA provides specific protections for military members, including limitations on eviction proceedings and lease termination rights.
- Reasonable Accommodations: Landlords may be required to provide reasonable accommodations for military members with disabilities related to their service. This could include modifications to the rental property to accommodate disabilities or other necessary adjustments to meet the tenant’s needs.
- Complaints and Legal Action: If a military member believes they have been subjected to discrimination, they may have the right to file a complaint with the appropriate agency responsible for enforcing fair housing laws in their jurisdiction. Legal remedies and actions may be available to address discrimination and seek compensation for damages.
It’s important for landlords to familiarize themselves with the specific discrimination laws and fair housing regulations in their jurisdiction. These laws may have additional protections and requirements beyond those specific to military members. Consulting legal professionals or landlord-tenant resources can provide landlords with detailed information and guidance on complying with discrimination laws in military housing contexts.
Rental Application Rules
Rental application rules and best practices are important when dealing with all potential tenants, including service members. Here are further details on this topic:
- Fair Consideration: Landlords should give fair and equal consideration to rental applications from military members. It’s important to evaluate applicants based on their qualifications, rental history, creditworthiness, and other relevant factors, rather than making decisions solely based on their military status.
- Proof of Income: Military members typically receive a steady income through their military pay, including Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH). Landlords should request documentation to verify the applicant’s income and ability to meet rent obligations.
- Military Orders: Military members may need to provide their military orders as part of the rental application process. These orders confirm their active-duty status, assignment location, and duration, which can help landlords verify the applicant’s eligibility and assess the potential duration of the tenancy.
- Credit and Background Checks: It’s wise to conduct credit checks and background screenings as part of your standard application process. It’s important to apply consistent screening criteria to all applicants, including military members, without any discriminatory practices.
- Lease Terms: Landlords should provide lease terms that accommodate the needs of military members, considering the potential for deployments or relocations. Flexible lease terms, such as short-term leases or military clause provisions, can be beneficial for both parties.
- Communication and Flexibility: Effective communication with military applicants is crucial. Military members may have unique circumstances and may require flexibility regarding lease start dates, move-in dates, or other logistical considerations due to military obligations.
- SCRA Protections: Landlords should be familiar with SCRA and understand the protections it provides military members in the rental process. This includes limitations on lease termination penalties and eviction proceedings for certain military-related reasons.
Security Deposit and Rent
As a landlord, it’s important to understand security deposit and rent rules for service members:
- Deposit Limitations: Some jurisdictions have specific laws or regulations regarding the maximum amount landlords can charge as a security deposit. It’s important for landlords to be aware of and comply with these limitations to avoid any legal issues.
- Security Deposit Refunds: At the end of the tenancy, landlords are generally required to return the security deposit, minus any deductions for damages beyond normal wear and tear. Landlords should follow the legal guidelines in their jurisdiction regarding the timeline and process for returning the security deposit.
- Rent Payment: Landlords should establish clear guidelines and expectations for rent payment from military tenants. This includes specifying the due date, acceptable payment methods, and consequences for late payments.
- Automatic Rent Deductions: In some cases, military members may authorize automatic rent deductions from their military pay. This arrangement can ensure timely and consistent rent payments, providing convenience for both the landlord and the tenant. Landlords should be familiar with the processes and requirements for setting up automatic deductions, if available.
- Deployment and Rent: If a military tenant is deployed or receives orders for a temporary duty assignment, they may have specific rights and protections related to their rent obligations. The SCRA in the United States, for example, provides certain protections against lease termination penalties and eviction proceedings for deployed military members.
- Notice Requirements: Landlords should establish clear policies regarding notice requirements for lease termination or non-renewal. This allows military tenants to provide sufficient notice if they receive orders for a permanent change of station (PCS) or other military-related reasons.
- Lease Renewal Considerations: When considering lease renewals for military tenants, landlords should be flexible and understanding of potential deployment or relocation needs. Offering short-term lease options or including military clause provisions that address the termination process in the event of military orders can be beneficial.
- Communication and Flexibility: Open communication between landlords and military tenants is essential for addressing any potential challenges related to rent payment or changes in military obligations. Being flexible and understanding of the unique circumstances military members may face can help maintain a positive tenant-landlord relationship.
It’s important for landlords to familiarize themselves with the specific laws and regulations in their jurisdiction regarding security deposits, rent payment, and the rights of military tenants.
Every landlord needs to have solid understanding about military housing laws and rules. You don’t want to run afoul of the law or make any missteps related to rules. And this article is a good foundation for that understanding.