How to legally get out of your lease due to PCS or deployment

Written by Alita Miller


Do you need out of your lease before the date you originally agreed to because you have orders? In the rock, paper, scissors game of legal documents, government orders trump leases, so you probably have nothing to worry about. Terminate that lease with ease with the Service Members Civil Relief Act — it can protect you if you need to break a lease on account of deployment or other military moves.


The Service Members Civil Relief Act

Your protection under the relief act begins on the date you enter active duty and generally ends between 30 and 90 days after the date of discharge from active duty. This safeguard applies to:

  • Active-duty members of the armed forces
  • National Guard members serving active duty status under federal orders
  • Reservists called to active duty
  • Coast Guard members serving on active duty


Termination of residential leases

To get out of a housing lease, under the relief act and without penalty, you must:

  • Prove you signed the lease before you entered active duty, and that you will remain on active duty for a minimum of 90 days.
  • Provide your landlord written notice of your intent to break the lease and a copy of your military orders, ideally no fewer than 30 days in advance.

If you signed a lease or rental agreement after you began active-duty service, you may still be able to terminate it without penalty under the relief act if you:

  • Provide written notice to your landlord and a copy of your orders, preferably with at least a 30-day notice
  • Received permanent change of station (PCS) move or deployment orders that will last for more than 90 days


Termination of automotive leases

Under the Service Members Civil Relief Act, active duty service members, members of the national guard, and reserve service members can end automotive leases early if they are called to active duty for a minimum of 180 days. Services members may be protected if:

  • Orders for PCS move relocate the member to a different state
  • Orders for a military PCS move relocate the member outside of the continental United States
  • The service member deploys at least 180 days


To terminate an automotive lease, members need to:

  • Give the dealership written notice of the intent to break the lease and a copy of your military orders.
  • Return the vehicle no later than 15 days after delivery of the written notice.

If you are successful, your lease should end the day you return the vehicle.


Know if there is a “military clause” in your residential lease

Familiarize yourself with the language in your residential lease. The document may include a military clause, which gives you additional protection and allows you to break under certain circumstances, such as a military PCS move or deployment. Such clauses are common in housing leases near military installations. If your lease doesn’t have a military clause, ask your landlord or management company if one can be added.


Legal Assistance

If you have questions about breaking a lease, contact your legal assistance office. You can find the closest office through the MilitaryINSTALLATIONS website, or through the Armed Forces Legal Assistance Legal Services Locator application.


The ASYMCA is Here to Help

The ASYMCA’s mission is to support service members and their families through all the trials of military life. Check out your local ASYMCA for a wide range of specially-designed programs, support networks and other free resources for military families.