Federal law allows military servicemembers to terminate their leases in limited situations. California expanded the federal law and provides military tenants special lease protections. The California landlord and tenant laws provide military servicemembers with several unique exceptions to the lease termination and notice laws. Military servicemembers who receive an order to transfer stations or for active deployment can terminate any lease with little notice and responsibility to pay lease damages.
Lease Termination Laws
The Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act, Title 50 of the United States Code, Section 534, is a federal law that provides military personnel with the legal right to terminate their leases if they entered into the agreements before active military duty. To terminate a lease, a soldier must be called to active duty. However, California law provides all military tenants with the the legal right to terminate their lease agreements if they are transferred or called to active duty. They may enter into their lease agreements before or after being called to service.
Form of Termination
Military servicemembers can terminate their leases at any time if they receive a transfer station order or are called to active duty. The transfer or deployment order must be for at least 90 days to qualify as a permanent change justifying termination of the lease. They must provide their landlords with written notice and a copy of their orders. Without an exception, they would be responsible for future rent payments until their leases terminate.
Military tenants must provide written notice of termination by certified mail or private delivery with return receipt. Termination becomes effective in 30 days after the next rent payment date. For example, if a military tenant provides her landlord with written termination notice on July 16, and her next rent payment is due on August 10, then her termination is effective as of September 9. She will not be responsible for rent payments after September 9. Landlords must provide their military tenants with their security deposits and any advance rent payments within 30 days after termination is effective. Thus, using the same example, landlords would have until October 8 to return any unused rent and remaining security deposit.
Under California law, a military tenant has the right to request a stay in a legal eviction action. If his landlord files an eviction lawsuit against him, he has a right to request a delay of the court eviction hearing for up to 90 days. The right allows military tenants and their dependents a right to request a stay for up to 90 days if their rent does not exceed $2,400 monthly. To request a stay, the military tenant must be able to prove that a stay is necessary for financial reasons, and his military duties substantially affect his abilities to pay rent on time.
Since state laws can frequently change, do not use this information as a substitute for legal advice. Seek advice through an attorney licensed to practice law in your state.