landlord/tenant Q&A

LIZ ISHIMITSU (RA)
Property Manager Marie Hansen Properties, Inc.
2012 President, Oahu Chapter National Association of Residential Property Managers

Q.

I have a military tenant who called to give me notice to vacate because of orders off island. He said the orders haven’t been cut yet but he wanted to put in his notice. Do I accept this without the orders? Then he called back a couple of days later and said he may go ahead to his next duty station and his wife and kids might stay back for another 2 months so his child could finish up a band program. They would then at that point break their lease based on the orders. Can they do this?

A.

The tenant must provide you with some kind of document that states he is being transferred to another post located off island. There are times when a soldier is informed that he is being transferred and the official documents are yet to follow. The Hawaii Association of Realtors lease states the following: MILITARY TENANTS: If tentant’s military orders require a change of tenant’s residence to some place off the island for sixty (60) days or more, tenant may end this Rental Agreement by giving landlord written notice twenty-eight (28) days in advance, accompanied by a copy of tenant’s orders.

I believe that he is trying to be a good tenant by informing you of the news he just received. However, in order for the clock to start ticking toward the 28 days he must provide you with some kind of official document. I suggest requesting an official letter from his commanding officer and asking your tenant to send you a copy of the official order once he receives it.

On December 19, 2003, President Bush signed into law the “Service-members Civil Relief Act” (SCRA). This law is a complete revision of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act (SSCRA). This new law extends the right to terminate real property leases to active duty soldiers moving pursuant to permanent change of station (PCS) orders or deployment orders of at least 90 days. The dates in this law differ from the HAR standard lease (our lease is more liberal), but the law does not dictate that the notice must be invoked immediately, precluding the family from staying on the extra two months. The Federal law states the lease may be broken “anytime” after receiving the orders.

So yes, you must let him out of his lease, whether it is immediately upon receipt of his orders or two months into his deployment, and allow his family to stay so that the child can complete his band program. Military children are impacted greatly by not having a parent home because mom or dad is deployed and away from home for an extended time. Having to move so much does affect them too. Attending a new school, leaving behind friends and the need to make new friends, etc., can be difficult for anyone.

Having the family stay back may be an advantage for you. This will give you more time to market the home and to find a new tenant. In today’s economy it sometimes takes a little bit longer to re-rent a unit depending on what part of the island the home is situated in. A suggestion would be to point out to them early the terms in the lease that allow you to show the unit for re-rental prior to them leaving.

Answers to questions in Landlord Tenant Q&A are provided by members of the Oahu Chapter of the National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM), an organization that supports the professional and ethical prac-tices of rental home management through networking, education, and certification. The Oahu Chapter, founded in 2004, has become the largest in the nation with 175 registered members.

Disclaimer: The answers provided in this column by Realtors address individual cases and should not be construed as interpretations of the law. For specific information on Hawaii State Law, go to http:// hawaii.gov/ dcca/areas /ocp/ landlord_tenant or contact an attorney.

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