Q: I am active duty military and my landlord wants to use a contract that is different from the one the Housing Office provides. Why should I use the Housing Office contract?
A: Since you are stationed in the Federal Republic of Germany you cannot take advantage of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act to terminate your German housing lease early due to military orders. That is why it is important to have a military termination clause in your housing contract.
The current housing contract in use by the U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart Housing Office contains such a military clause. It states:
“Special Clause for US Government Reasons. For U.S. Government reasons, tenant may terminate agreement with a 30-day termination notice. U.S. government reasons include, but are not limited to, relocation to another duty station, directed move to Army Family Housing quarters, early return of dependents or emergencies.”
This provision is important because it may permit you to terminate your housing contract with only a 30-day notice as opposed to the normal 90-day notice. However, because this special termination clause is not typical under German law, the service member has the burden to prove that there is such a military reason for termination.
It is important to both understand the legal effectiveness of your military termination clause and also maintain good host nation relations. Therefore, you should not use the military clause to delay providing notice to terminate your lease. This would be an improper use of the clause.
For instance, if a service member receives orders six months before he or she is to relocate and forgets to provide 90-day notice, it is unlikely the landlord will permit the service member to take advantage of the 30-day notice provision. This individual is now most likely on the hook for an extra 60 days of rent. Abusing the termination clause may also make host nation landlords more hesitant to accept housing office contracts, which in turn may limit the availability of housing to service members here in Stuttgart.
In other words, the military termination clause is not a “get out of jail free” card to be used when one does not follow the terms of the contract he or she signed, but rather a safeguard in case military circumstances require a quick move.
Finally, the Stuttgart Law Center suggests that Stuttgart military community members use the USAG Stuttgart Housing Office lease contract. The contract’s provisions incorporate valuable lessons learned throughout the years. Most German rental agreements do not contain the same protections.