Landlords often assume that a military tenant is golden! While it is a pretty safe bet that a military tenant will be consistent in paying on-time and taking good care of your property, as with every tenant segment, it is critical that landlords are thorough in their screening. In the video that goes along with this article, I share several real-life examples of military tenants gone bad. I don’t share these examples to bash the military, but to point out that with every tenant segment, things can go south. When screening tenants of any type, including military, it is critical to confirm the information on the application and determine, to the best of your ability, that the applicant is lentering a lease with the intention of being able to fulfill all the lease terms you both agree to.
I addressed in a previous blog many important aspects of tenant screening in general. Below you will find some tips on how to specifically validate the information for a military applicant. (You can find a link to that article here: https://www.virginiabeachpropertymanagementinc.net/blog/setting-your-rental-criteria-
- GET A COPY OF THE LES WITH THE APPLICATION
Have the military member submit a copy of their “LES” (leave and earnings statement) along with their application. This will show you if the military member is paid any BAH (basic allowance for housing). Add this to their base pay when calculating their total monthly income to confirm it meets your rental criteria. Note on the bottom right that the LES indicates what zip code the LES amount is based on and if it is a rate for a single occupant or a member with dependents. The BAH amount will adjust for the cost of living when a member is reassigned to a new duty station.
- ASK FOR A COPY OF THE MILITARY MEMBER’S OFFICIAL ORDERS
Ask for a copy of the military member’s latest orders placing him/her in your market. If your applicant is just relocating to your market, look for the code that says, “Report No Later Than”, which will show when the member must be at the new duty station. As you can see from the sample orders below, this member was given two months to move and set up new housing. Also find the code “PRD”, which stands for Projected Rotation Date. This is the date the military expects that this member will be assigned to a different duty station, which could be outside of your market. Of course, with all military plans, they are subject to change. Often a military member will be open to a lease term that co-insides to expired with their PRD. While branches of the military may have orders that look slightly different, here is a sample of what orders may look like.
- VERIFY AN APPLICANT’S SERVICE
You can verify if a person is currently active duty military, as long as you have their name, social security number, and birthdate at this website: https://scra.dmdc.osd.mil/scra/#/single-record
- SERVICEMEMBER’S CIVIL RELIEVE ACT (SCRA)
The SCRA is a law designed to protect servicemembers from predatory consumer practices during periods of military service. In the rental arena, the Act allows a service member to terminate their lease if they have a change in permanent duty station or have a separation of service, 30 days after the next rent due date after giving notice. In addition, if the servicemember is taken to court for any reason and is not present at the hearing, the SCRA requires that an attorney be appointed to represent the servicemember and that the case be continued for at least 90 days, to give the appointed attorney time to make contact with the military member. The Plaintiff pays the bill for this attorney, although some states will allow the Plaintiff to ask the military defendant to reimburse the Plaintiff, should the Plaintiff win the suit.
Click on this link to read the entire SCRA. https://www.justice.gov/servicemembers/servicemembers-civil-relief-act-scra
At PMI Virginia we are proud to serve our military community both as custodians for their real estate, for the military members we manage property for, and also as responsible landlords who are appreciative not only of the sacrifices our military members make, but also of the sacrifice made by their entire families.
Honor to the soldier and sailor everywhere, who bravely bears his country’s cause. Honor, also, to the citizen who cares for his brother in the field and serves, as he best can, the same cause. -Abraham Lincoln