What is a "Foreign Service clause"?
Many members of the Foreign Service occupy short-term rental property in the Washington area and elsewhere during periods of training and temporary duty. At the same time, the exigencies of the Foreign Service may require them to vacate such rentals on short notice because they have to travel to post early, they are suddenly assigned overseas, or because they must move to another area of the country for training.
Since the Service-Members Civil Relief Act (SCRA) of 2003 was only written to protect members of the military from the conditions of long- or short term housing contracts, members of the Foreign Service do not enjoy any protection under the law if they are forced to break their leases because of unforeseen circumstances. Therefore, in order to help our members avoid punitive penalties in these circumstances, AFSA has designed a "Foreign Service Clause" for inclusion in rental agreements.
We have to stress that landlords and rental companies are under no obligation whatever to include such a clause in your rental agreement or lease, but AFSA has been in contact with a large number the rental companies in the Washington area and many have agreed to include this clause. These corporate rental companies understand that members of the Foreign Service are subjected to short-notice redeployments and, recognizing that Foreign Service personnel constitute a significant part of their clientele, they do their best to be helpful. However, you will have to ask for the Foreign Service clause; its inclusion will not be automatic. If the rental company refuses, your only recourse is to go elsewhere.
How would a Foreign Service clause read in a lease?
Below is a sample of this clause, which, in its simplest terms, extends the same protections that military personnel enjoy to Foreign Service personnel.
"If any tenant or their spouse is or becomes a member of the Foreign Service of the Department of State/U.S. Agency for International Development/Department of Commerce/Department of Agriculture/Broadcasting Board of Governors, the tenant may terminate this rental contract on 30 days written notice to the landlord in any of the following conditions:
- If the tenant receives permanent change of station orders to another area;
- If the tenant is separated from the Foreign Service; or
- If the tenant has leased the property prior to his/her arrival and has subsequently received official reassignment orders, including TDY orders for sixty days or more, to a location outside 50 miles from the property.
Tenant shall not be liable for any rent after the 30-day period, and the landlord agrees to release the tenant from all obligations under the lease, including, but not limited to, any obligation to pay rent through to the original termination date."