Military Member Discrimination: Lawyer/Experienced Landlords Advice Desired r

13 Replies

I am part of a military facebook page. One of the landlords has a tenants trying to sign a lease a 12 month lease with 8 months orders. So she asked the group and many of use said to deny them and move on! 

One of the landlords wrote the following response

The only thing I will say is stay far away from the SCRA clause because if you do not rent based on it and they find out- they can take you to court for discrimination. Because you are discriminating against the military that is protected by a law- and how do I know? We had tenants that tried to release our home for a second year- we caught wind that the wife was moving home 4 months into the lease and using SCRA to do so- so we denied the second year- we got a very legal threading letter from their lawyer that was discrimination

We all have a friend who are lawyers that can write a threatening letter. This is the first time I have heard that you cannot discriminate because there orders are less than the lease. I know you cannot discriminate because they are military and have to let them out.

Has anyone heard that you are violating the lease if you don't willing allow them to sign a long term lease when there orders are short term?

Forget what you read on Facebook most are just hype. Ask to see a case law it is discrimination and some military people will ride and play the system.


Joe Gore

As far as I know, the military clause allows you to break a lease legally as long as your orders make you move more than 50 miles.

If you have orders, it doesn't seem like you can break the lease because you knew. It would be more ethical to request a month-to-month.

@Robert Leonard

Is it discrimination again SCRA if you do not rent to military who has orders for less than your lease length. Say you require a 12 month lease. A military tenant wants to sign a 12 month lease but only has orders for say 6 months.

@Paul Wurster

The SCRA allows you to break the lease whether you knew or didn't. I have always required military orders as part of the screening process. As I personally will not sign a lease for a length that I know a member does not have orders for! Ie I require a 12 month lease and they are doing a 3 months schooling!

Someone informed me that asking for orders and checking was discrimination! That she refused someone a renewal because she knew they were moving out in 4 months and someone had their lawyer serve them.

We are active duty military and are tenants tend to be the same! Since this site is awesome I wanted your opinions.

Elizabeth Colegrove I don't think its a violation of SCRA to deny someone with short term orders if you require a one year lease.  When I went to schools that were less than year, I asked if there was an exception or didn't inquire to those properties.  I never thought it was violation of SCRA to deny me when they required a one year lease.

In the case of denying a renewal of a lease because a service members orders would end, that would create a hardship that is unrealistic for the service member to overcome.  If they've rented from you for a year and only have 4 months left on orders, making them move for 4 months would create an undue hardship.  Most places require at least a 6 month lease and month to month rentals usually cost more.  I'm pretty sure it's seen differently when you are starting a new lease as opposed to renewing an existing lease. 

Your best bet is to get clarification from your JAG.

@Robert Leonard   It was not as much a denial because of orders ending but because the wife was moving home due to a deployment.

As a military member I truly get it! I understand both sides and have learned to protect myself from both sides. Just wanted another prospective.

Elizabeth Colegrove 

As a commander a few years again I supervised a Soldier who had the exact problem you identify. In the end the spouse was able to move away, however as the Soldier's commander I was prepared to give the landlord/property manager hell for any denial of the lease. I knew all the details behind the family's situation and what was best for them. Owning three rental homes now, I would not hesitate to allow a Solider to be released from a contract due to orders, verified of course. Also, all within reason.

In terms of permitting a lease when you know the Soldier is going to be breaking the lease before a desired term (say 12 months), this would have to be case by case.  The homes I have are in areas where I know I can rent it quickly again.  

Take care,

@Joe G.

This has never been a question of denial! Everyone has to let solider out of the lease when it pertains to military orders.

Elizabeth,

Great question, definitely going to monitor as my rentals are outside of Fort Stewart, Georgia and this will help me in the future.

That is a tough position a landlord can get put into, especially if the 8 month lease were to take you to a bad part of the year and then having to deal with the turnover costs.  What I would recommend is checking with your branch of the military's JAG or unit's legal rep. I would make them do the leg work and cite a specific portion of the SCRA or other law rather than just going off their word.

As a landlord, if I knew a tenant was only going to be somewhere for 8 months and wanted a year lease, I would have reservations about it unless they were highly qualified and maybe it ended the lease in a good month for rentals. Remember that there are certain reasons to disqualify not related to protected classes, such as pets, etc.

I think now I have more empathy for landlords who could be blindsided by someone moving into a place and knowing they'll move out soon. The people in the military do great things, but as a member myself, I can say for certain that service members have good intentions for the most part, but this rule can also be disadvantageous to landlords who can become handcuffed with it.

 I also believe military members should be able to find a suitable place to live and maybe this rule helps them, but for example, I'm going to a career course in Columbia South Carolina in a year or so for a 6 month PCS move school. I will not be looking for a one year lease for a house, knowing I'll need to terminate the lease. I will be looking for a short term, cheap apartment since it will only be a temporary living arrangement.

I would love to see the renters and landlords all coming up with a plan that benefits both parties in these situations, but I guess this is just a reality we face as landlords in military towns.

@elizabeth c  You need to document and share your criteria for accepting or renewing lessors.  Based upon your description, you are discriminating because you don't have fair criteria for non-renewing the lease.   

I'm betting your criteria are for relate to the history of a candidate based upon income, job, rental history, and one-year lease without exception.  If these don't work for the candidate, then you can reject, otherwise you have to accept the renewal and improve your criteria without discriminating. 

Rejecting based upon 8 month order is not defensible criteria unless they refuse to sign a 12 month lease.  

Let us know what you learn from JAG or local lawyers.  Sounds like a common concern.

Rick

If someone is in the military verify it and get it in writing that they only have orders for an eight-month stay, and then you decided if you want to go month to month but never trust the future tenant most will lie.


Joe Gore

Just my experience outside Fort Stewart, GA, but most of the time when you have a single male renting (hasn't happened to me, but see single male coworkers here doing it) they are probably not going to be as long term of a tenant as a non military family or military member with spouse and kids.

They may be more inclined to hop on an upcoming deployment and use their orders to get out of the lease so they can put their stuff in storage, or they may be inclined to not renew after one year or break the lease and buy a home themselves.

It's unfortunate, but just a reality of where we live and have property. I'd like to say that you can usually see the possibility coming and I would be weary when one person wants to lease a 3 bedroom from you as they may just be trying the area out for a little bit to see if they like it and want to buy a house in the area.

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