September 16, 2020

Warren, Portman, Blackburn, Boozman, Tester, Reed Introduce Bill to Modernize Delivery of Notice of Lease Terminations for Servicemembers

Bipartisan bill updates Servicemembers Civil Relief Act to clarify that servicemembers can deliver notice of termination of residential and car leases by electronic means

Bill Text (PDF)

Washington, DC -- United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC); Senator Robert Portman (R-Ohio); Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), a member of SASC and the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee (SVAC); Senator John Boozman (R-Ark.), a member of SVAC; SVAC Ranking Member Jon Tester (D-Mont.); and SASC Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-R.I.) introduced the Modernizing Notice of Lease Terminations for Servicemembers Act, bipartisan legislation that would amend the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) to clarify that servicemembers can deliver notice of termination of residential and car leases by electronic means.

SCRA currently includes narrow, outdated requirements for the acceptable delivery of notice of termination of residential and car leases entered into by servicemembers -- by "hand delivery," "private business carrier," or regular mail. These requirements were drafted in 2003 and do not explicitly permit electronic delivery of notice of a lease termination, which is a primary means by which tenants communicate with landlords and by which lessees communicate with car leasing companies. The ability to electronically deliver notice of termination of a residential or car lease is especially important for servicemembers who may already be serving in another location by the time they are able to seek termination due to a deployment or a permanent change of station (PCS). Electronic means of communication are also critical in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, during which physical contact should be limited and traditional mail and delivery services may heighten the risk of exposure. 

"Our servicemembers and their families make incredible sacrifices to keep our country safe, so we should take every opportunity to make it easier for them to manage major financial transactions like residential and car leases," Senator Warren said. "Our bipartisan bill is a sensible, overdue update to the law that ensures servicemembers can deliver valid, enforceable notice of lease terminations electronically."

"I'm proud to introduce the Modernizing Notice of Lease Terminations for Servicemembers Act because it makes an important update to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, allowing our military families to terminate leases electronically and use e-documents, instead of being required to provide paper copies of documents. This is especially important for military families who must move homes regularly, and as we've learned from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the flexibility of using e-documents instead of paper saves time, money, and allows for socially distant transactions," Senator Portman said.

"As a member of the Senate Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Committees, I take seriously the responsibility of honoring our commitments to those who serve our country," said Senator Blackburn. "The COVID-19 pandemic is pushing us to reconsider the ways we conduct transactions, and that includes how servicemembers share information. I am pleased to be part of this effort to ensure that important communications can be delivered in a timely manner, while also decreasing unnecessary in-person contact."

"I'm proud to support the men and women of our nation's Armed Forces. This update to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act will provide greater flexibility and convenience for servicemembers and their families navigating changes to housing and vehicle leases, protecting them from penalties and ensuring they have the ability to comply with orders to deploy or relocate while serving in uniform," Senator Boozman said.

"Recent COVID-19 restrictions and delays in mail have caused unprecedented disruptions to our nation's servicemembers' daily lives," said Senator Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee. "Our bipartisan bill would streamline the process for servicemembers looking to terminate property or vehicle leases by allowing them to do so electronically. This commonsense proposal is a no-brainer, and I'll keep fighting to ensure we support our uniformed men and women during this difficult time."

The Modernizing Notice of Lease Terminations for Servicemembers Act is a modest update to the SCRA by explicitly stating that servicemembers can use electronic means to deliver a valid, enforceable notice of termination of their residential or car leases, including by email, posting material to a website or other site to which the parties to a lease have secure access, or other electronic means that would reasonably ensure actual receipt of the notice of termination. The bill would allow electronic delivery of notice of termination for residential and car leases even if servicemembers entered into those leases before the bill's enactment. 

The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and The American Legion support the Modernizing Notice of Lease Terminations for Servicemembers Act.

Senator Warren has worked with members of both parties to enact legislation that strengthens financial protections for military families. For example, the bipartisan Gold Star Spouses Leasing Relief Act she introduced with Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) and Senator Portman was signed into law as part of the omnibus veterans legislation, the Veterans Benefits and Transition Act, in December 2018 and allows a Gold Star spouse to terminate a residential lease, without penalty, within one year of the servicemember's death. Senators Warren and Portman also successfully included their bipartisan Gold Star Spouses and Spouses of Injured Servicemembers Leasing Relief Expansion Act in Section 545 of the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to expand leasing relief protections for military spouses regarding residential and car leases.

Earlier this year, she introduced bipartisan legislation, the Leasing Relief for Dependents of Fallen Heroes and Injured Servicemembers Act, that would allow adult dependents of deceased or catastrophically injured servicemembers to terminate residential and car leases without financial penalty under certain conditions. In addition, Senator Warren was a cosponsor of bipartisan legislation signed into law that enables servicemembers and their dependents who were planning to move pursuant to military orders prior to COVID-19 to terminate new residential, business, and car leases entered into before the Defense Department issued "stop movement" orders due to the pandemic.