Renting a Home:
Legal Aspects of Renting in New Mexico
If you are on active duty in the armed forces or plan to join, you need to know about changes in federal law that affect your rights concerning rental housing. Previously, members of the armed forces could be required to pay for housing they were unable to occupy unless they had a military clause in their lease or lived in a state with a law that allowed for early termination. A new federal law, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) of 2003 eliminates the need to request a military termination clause in leases and gives some additional protection.
The law allows military members who receive permanent change of station orders or who are deployed for a period of 90 days or more to terminate a lease. They must provide written notice to the landlord with a copy of the military orders. The termination of the lease is effective 30 days after the date on which the next rent is due. If your rent is due on the first of the month and you give written notice on March 15, you make your next and final rent payment on April 1. The lease ends effective May 1 which is 30 days after the payment.
This law also allows persons who are just entering active military duty to end a lease. The service member must show that the lease was entered into before the start of active duty and was signed by or on behalf of the service member. The service member must show that he or she is currently in military service or has been called to active duty for a period of 180 days or more. The service member must provide written notice to the landlord with a copy of the military orders.
SCRA also gives military members and their dependents some protection against eviction from rental units. A military member or dependent who is having difficulty making rent payments should immediately contact a military legal assistance attorney at the nearest military facility.
If you have a roommate who plans to enter military service during the period of a joint lease, you need to have a clause in the lease excusing you from his or her portion of the rent. Otherwise you will be held liable for the full amount of the rent. If you want to protect yourself from being liable for a roommate's rent when he or she leaves for military service, ask the landlord to include a clause in your lease such as the following:
"The landlord agrees that if any individual who has signed this lease is called to active military duty, landlord will reduce the total rent due under the contract, for the balance of the term, by _____% commencing 30 days after receiving notice from the tenant that he/she has received orders to report for active duty."
Be sure that the landlord signs or places his or her initials next to this clause so that it is properly added to the lease. Remember, what matters is a written agreement not a verbal assurance.
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