Military life comes with a unique set of challenges, including frequent relocations due to Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders. For active-duty service members and their families, finding suitable housing and managing lease agreements can be a daunting task, especially when faced with landlords or apartment complexes that do not honor the protections provided under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) or Chapter 92.017 of the Texas Property Code. When these laws are not followed, service members can face negative credit reporting, impacting their eligibility for security clearance and job promotion. In this article, we’ll discuss the rights and protections available to active-duty service members in Texas and provide guidance on how to navigate housing challenges and protect your credit when relocating due to PCS orders.
Understanding the SCRA and Texas Property Code 92.017
Both the SCRA and Texas Property Code 92.017 offer protections for active-duty service members when it comes to housing and lease agreements. It’s essential to understand how these laws apply to your situation so that you can exercise your rights effectively.
Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)
The SCRA is a federal law that provides various protections for active-duty service members, including the ability to terminate a lease agreement without penalty when they receive PCS orders or are deployed for at least 90 days. To exercise this right, service members must provide their landlord with written notice and a copy of their orders.
Texas Property Code 92.017
Similar to the SCRA, Chapter 92.017 of the Texas Property Code allows service members or their dependents to terminate a lease without liability for future rent if they meet specific criteria, such as receiving PCS orders or deploying for at least 90 days. This state law also requires service members to provide their landlord with written notice and a copy of their orders to terminate the lease.
In addition to lease termination rights, Texas Property Code 92.017 also addresses issues related to security deposits, delinquent rent, and penalties for landlords who violate the law. Understanding these provisions can help service members protect their rights and avoid negative consequences when dealing with housing issues in Texas.
It’s important to note that although both the SCRA and Texas Property Code 92.017 provide protections for service members, some landlords or apartment complexes may not honor these laws. In such cases, it’s crucial to be aware of your rights and seek legal assistance to ensure your interests are protected.
The Consequences of Non-Compliance by Apartment Complexes and Landlords
When apartment complexes and landlords fail to comply with the SCRA and Texas Property Code 92.017, it can lead to serious consequences for service members. This non-compliance may result in negative credit reporting, jeopardizing security clearances, and hindering job promotions. It’s crucial to address these issues promptly and seek legal assistance if necessary.
Negative Credit Reporting
If a landlord or apartment complex refuses to honor the lease termination provisions of the SCRA or Texas Property Code 92.017, they may report the service member as having unpaid rent or breaking the lease. This negative information can significantly impact the service member’s credit report, making it challenging to secure future housing, loans, or other financial services.
Jeopardized Security Clearances
Service members with negative information on their credit reports, such as unpaid rent or broken leases, may face challenges when it comes to obtaining or maintaining a security clearance. Since security clearances are often essential for military personnel in specific roles, this can severely affect a service member’s career prospects.
Hindered Job Promotions
Unresolved housing issues and negative credit reporting can also hinder job promotions for service members. Military personnel with a history of financial problems or unresolved housing disputes may be considered less reliable or responsible, making it less likely they’ll be considered for advancement opportunities.
If you’re a service member facing non-compliance from an apartment complex or landlord, it’s crucial to take action to protect your rights and minimize the potential consequences. Reach out to a knowledgeable attorney with experience in military housing issues to help you navigate the process and ensure your interests are protected.
Steps to Ensure Proper Lease Termination
For service members facing relocation or deployment, it’s essential to follow the proper steps to terminate your lease in compliance with the SCRA and Texas Property Code 92.017. By doing so, you can minimize the risk of negative consequences and protect your rights. Here are the key steps you should take:
1. Review Your Lease Agreement
Before initiating the termination process, review your lease agreement to understand its specific terms and conditions. Pay close attention to any clauses related to early termination or military relocation. Familiarize yourself with the SCRA and Texas Property Code 92.017 to ensure that your situation qualifies for lease termination under these laws.
2. Notify Your Landlord
Once you’ve confirmed that your situation qualifies for lease termination under the SCRA or Texas Property Code 92.017, you must provide your landlord with written notice of your intention to terminate the lease. Be sure to include the effective date of termination, which will be determined by the specific law that applies to your situation.
3. Provide Required Documentation
Along with the written notice, you must also provide your landlord with appropriate documentation as evidence of your military status or orders. This may include a copy of your military orders, a letter from your commanding officer, or other official government documents.
4. Follow Up with Your Landlord
After providing the required notice and documentation, follow up with your landlord to ensure they received and acknowledged the information. This communication can help to prevent misunderstandings and ensure that the lease termination process proceeds smoothly.
5. Keep Records
Maintain copies of all correspondence, documentation, and evidence related to your lease termination. These records may be crucial if any disputes arise with your landlord or if negative information is reported to credit bureaus.
6. Seek Legal Assistance if Necessary
If your landlord refuses to comply with the SCRA or Texas Property Code 92.017, or if you encounter difficulties during the lease termination process, consider seeking legal assistance from an experienced attorney. A knowledgeable lawyer can help protect your rights and guide you through any necessary legal actions.
By following these steps, service members can help ensure a smooth and proper lease termination process, minimizing the risk of negative consequences and safeguarding their financial and professional well-being.
Strategies for Repairing Credit and Mitigating Career Impact
If an apartment complex or landlord has reported a negative item on your credit report due to an improperly handled lease termination, it’s essential to take action to repair your credit and mitigate any potential impact on your military career. Here are some strategies to help you address the issue and protect your financial and professional future:
1. Obtain and Review Your Credit Reports
First, obtain copies of your credit reports from the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Review each report carefully to identify any negative items related to your lease termination. Familiarize yourself with your rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act and be prepared to assert them as needed.
2. Dispute Inaccurate Information
If you find any inaccuracies on your credit reports, you have the right to dispute them. Submit a dispute to each credit bureau that has reported the incorrect information. Be sure to include any relevant documentation to support your claim, such as a copy of your military orders, your lease termination notice, or records of your communication with the landlord. Learn more about the credit report dispute process to ensure you follow the proper procedures.
3. Contact Your Landlord or Apartment Complex
Reach out to your landlord or apartment complex to discuss the negative item on your credit report. Inform them of your rights under the SCRA or Texas Property Code 92.017 and request that they correct the information with the credit bureaus. If necessary, involve your chain of command or base legal office for additional support.
4. Monitor Your Credit Reports
After submitting disputes and contacting your landlord or apartment complex, monitor your credit reports to ensure that the inaccurate information is corrected. It may take some time for changes to be reflected on your credit reports, so be patient and diligent in tracking the progress.
5. Seek Professional Help if Necessary
If your efforts to correct the negative information on your credit report are unsuccessful, consider seeking help from a knowledgeable attorney who specializes in credit reporting and military law. They can provide guidance on your rights and help you navigate the legal process to protect your financial and career interests.
By taking these steps to repair your credit and mitigate the impact of a negative item related to an improperly handled lease termination, you can safeguard your financial well-being and maintain your eligibility for security clearance and job promotion within the military.
In conclusion, it’s essential for active-duty servicemembers to be proactive and knowledgeable about their tenant rights and responsibilities under the SCRA and Texas Property Code 92.017. Being well-informed about these protections can help prevent disputes related to lease termination and the negative consequences that may arise from such disputes, including damage to your credit report and potential impacts on your military career.
It’s important for servicemembers to seek help and support when navigating these challenges, whether it’s from their chain of command, base legal office, or a knowledgeable attorney who specializes in credit reporting and military law. By taking the necessary steps to protect your rights and address any issues that arise, you can maintain your financial well-being and focus on your military service.
If you are facing challenges related to lease termination or credit reporting disputes as a servicemember, don’t hesitate to reach out to our office for assistance. We are here to help you resolve these issues and protect your rights, ensuring that you can continue to serve with confidence and peace of mind.