Q: I was renting a furnished house for short-term (vacation) rentals. A few months ago, I was approached by an agent who made me a very favorable offer to rent the home annually. We signed a lease, and I got rid of all of the furniture because they had their own. Now the season is upon us, and I was told just before the move-in date that the tenant is in the military and got transferred overseas so they will not be moving in. I am out a lot of money because of this. Can I sue? - Haythem
A: No, not successfully. Because your tenant is active duty military, she is afforded certain legal protections. Several laws protect our service members in their civilian dealings, and the one in play here is the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, commonly known as the SCRA. This law allows someone on active duty to terminate a lease if the location of his or her post is permanently changed, or if the person is deployed for more than 90 days. The law also provides certain protections for service members in their other financial dealings.
Although this protection may make it seem like it is a bad idea to rent to the military, many positives outweigh this risk. First, members of our armed services make great tenants and tend to take good care of the homes they rent. (As a disclaimer, I am a veteran and would never have wanted to have a conversation with my executive officer about why I was not a good tenant. All these years later, the thought makes me shudder.)
Also, in situations where there are transfers, another service member looking for a place to live will be transferring here. Military bases are tight-knit communities, and word of a good landlord will get around, leaving that landlord with plenty of potential tenants. You should speak with the departing tenant and her agent and see if they can recommend a replacement tenant, or post a flier for you on the base bulletin board.
We are in a hot rental market, and you will find a tenant soon. While your situation is frustrating, it is a small price to pay in exchange for the way of life and freedom we enjoy due to these men and women putting it all on the line for us.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He practices real estate, business litigation and contract law from his office in Sunrise, Fla. He is the chairman of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is a co-host of the weekly radio show Legal News and Review. He frequently consults on general real estate matters and trends in Florida with various companies across the nation. Send him questions online at www.sunsentinel.com/askpro or follow him on Twitter @GarySingerLaw.
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