Landlord Ordered to Pay Back Tenant

A federal judge has ordered a Virginia landlord to return money to his tenant after an early lease termination.

The tenant, a servicemember, says he was penalized for breaking the rental lease after the military ordered him to move.

According to court records, the landlord leased a residential property in Manassas, Va., to the tenant and his wife. After receiving orders to report to a new post, the tenant gave notice to the landlord, who then withheld the tenant’s security deposit of $2,450, and also charged the tenant for prorated rent, late fees, and a “myriad of repairs” totaling $6,000.

The judge found the tenant properly terminated the lease pursuant to the Servicemember Civil Relief Act (SCRA), which protects the rights of servicemembers while on active duty in the military by suspending or modifying certain civil obligations.

Regarding the claims for property damage, the judge found that the landlord had failed to itemize the damage and notify the tenant within 30 days of termination, the time frame required in the lease agreement. On that basis, the judge dismissed any claims the landlord may have had for damage to the property.

The property was held in an LLC. Relying on cases brought under the Fair Housing Act, the judge found that both the corporate entity and the individual manager could be found liable under the SCRA.

The landlord was ordered to return the deposit, and to dropany additional claims against the tenant.

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