Yolanda McDaniel, deputy chief of Fort Campbell’s Housing Division, Directorate of Public Works, said one way the staff of the Housing Services Office advocates for Soldiers and their Families is through educating them about their legal rights when entering into lease agreements.
It is vital, McDaniel said, that the Housing Services Office, located in the Soldier Support Center at 2702 Michigan Ave., Room 400, be one of the first places a Soldier visits when he or she arrives at Fort Campbell.
One of the services offered at the Housing Services Office is lease contract review, which can in part ensure the Soldier’s rights under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act are protected.
The SCRA is a federal law that provides legal protections that can postpone or suspend financial or civil obligations while a Soldier is on active duty and away from home.
“It’s possible to sign away your rights by signing a waiver,” McDaniel said. “Some property managers who understand the law may not want you to break a lease, because they’ll lose revenue. And if you unknowingly waive your rights they can penalize you for breaking a lease.”
Under the provisions of the SCRA, Section 535 (Termination of Residential or Motor Vehicle Leases), paragraph (b)(1)(B) a service member can terminate a lease if “while in military service, executes the lease and thereafter receives military orders for a permanent change of station or to deploy with a military unit or as an individual in support of a military operation for a period of not less than 90 days.”
Once a service member waives his or her rights under the SCRA, there is nothing that can be done to reverse it.
Krystina Beltran, Army Community Service-Financial Readiness counselor, recently had a case in which a Soldier had mistakenly waived his rights.
“He ended up deploying, and because he signed away his rights, he ended up owing the rest of lease to the rental management,” Beltran said. “He reached out to us for financial support to help pay off the remainder of the lease, because legally there was nothing to be done after he signed away his rights.”
To avoid this pitfall the staff of the Housing Services Office can ensure the lease agreement is fair to the Soldier before he or she signs.
“We recommend service members allow us to read their lease before they sign so they can understand their rights are not being violated,” McDaniel said. “We want to make sure every lease a service member signs has the clause for the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act embedded in it in case [he or she gets] orders to PCS, deploy, etc.”
In addition to reviewing lease agreements and assisting when the need arises to break a lease, there are other agencies on Fort Campbell that can review legal agreements. Those include ACS- Financial Readiness and the Staff Judge Advocate Office.
“Our main focus is housing, but we can give information and refer you to the Staff Judge Advocate Office where they can help in legal areas regarding vehicle leases, credit cards, etc.,” McDaniel said.
For more information, or to get a lease reviewed call the Housing Services Office at 270-798-3808. Additionally, the Staff Judge Advocate Office, 2765 Tennessee Ave., can be reached at 270-798-0918 or 270-798-4432; and ACS-Financial Readiness, 1501 William C. Lee Road, 270-798-5518.