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Senate bill would make it easier to break residential leases

Oct. 29, 2013 - 12:48PM   |  
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Military families would find it easier to break leases so they could move into military housing under a bill introduced Monday by Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I.

The Servicemember Housing Protection Act includes changes legal and financial protections that Reed, an Army veteran, said would fix loopholes in current law.

His bill will be discussed Wednesday at a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing.

The Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act already allows termination of a residential lease when a service member is deployed or reassigned, but Reed said that isn’t enough.

Many troops lease off-base housing while waiting for military quarters to become available. Some states allow termination of a lease so a military family can move into government quarters, but Reed’s bill would make this federal law. Service members could break leases by providing their landlords a written statement, signed by their commanders, that they were relocating into government quarters.

“Several states, including Florida, Georgia and Virginia, have similar laws. We should extend this opportunity to service members serving at any of our military bases,” Reed said.

Additionally, the bill makes it easier for service members facing deployment to receive financial and credit protections. Under current law, lenders require service members to provide a copy of military orders to show they are deploying; Reed’s bill would require creditors to accept a statement from a member’s commander of the intent to deploy.

Orders “are often not cut until just before deployment or once the service member is already deployed, placing a burden on some military families as they try to deal with banks,” Reed said.

His bill, S 1593, also would extend protection against foreclosure for surviving spouses of service members who die on active duty. The House passed a similar provision on Monday as part of an omnibus veterans’ bill. The House bill did not include the lease termination or revised rules on what documentation is needed to claim credit protect.

Reed introduced similar legislation in 2012, but the measure never came to a vote in the Senate despite endorsement from major military and veterans’ groups.

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