Legislation Will Allow Spouses of Deceased Servicemembers to Break Jointly Held Residential Leases Without Penalty

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) today announced that President Trump signed into law his bipartisan Gold Star Spouses Leasing Relief Act. The legislation, which was originally introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) and Cheri Bustos (D-IL), would modify the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) to allow a widow or widower of a servicemember who died while in military service (i.e., a Gold Star spouse) to terminate a jointly held residential lease, without penalty, within one year of the servicemember’s death. This protection will also extend to the widow or widower of a member of the National Guard or Reserve whose death occurred while on active duty orders.

I applaud the president for signing this measure into law to ensure that grieving military spouse dealing with the death of their loved one on active duty are able to end their lease without paying high termination fees,” said Senator Portman.  “This law, with the support of numerous veterans groups and the Department of Defense, is a common-sense fix for Gold Star spouses.

When a servicemember receives military orders, his or her spouse is often required to relocate and then sign a lease for a house, apartment, or other dwelling. But when the servicemember dies during military service, the surviving spouse may be forced to pay off the remainder of that residential lease even though the couple only entered into that contract to accommodate the servicemember’s assignment. Under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), active duty servicemembers may cancel agreements such as home or apartment rental contracts when they are deployed or relocated. However, these protections do not explicitly apply to Gold Star spouses who are in these agreements jointly with a servicemember who died while in military service. 

The Gold Star Spouses Leasing Relief Act is also supported by The American Legion, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), and the National Military Family Association (NMFA).