Florida Uniformed Servicemembers Protection Act
The Florida Legislature enacted the Florida Uniformed Servicemembers Act (FUSPA) to protect members of the military who deploy in the defense of the United States. The FUSPA codifies several areas of concern which the Legislature feels are necessary to protect Florida’s military personnel. The FUSPA also amplifies and provides additional protections to those provided by Federal law. Federal legal protections continue to apply to military personnel. The FUSPA expands protections to include several areas not currently protected by Federal law. The FUSPA protects all uniformed military Servicemembers. Throughout the FUSPA the Servicemember must provide actual orders or a written verification signed by the Servicemember’s commander to receive FUSPA protection.
Terminating Car Lease Agreements
Servicemembers may terminate motor vehicle leases by providing 30 days written notice to the lessor if any of the following are met:
- Servicemember is required to move outside the continental United States; or
- Servicemember receives orders for a period exceeding 60 days for duty outside the continental United States or for a temporary change of station.
The Servicemember is then liable for only the amount due under the contract to the end of the 30 day notice period. The statute specifically states that the lessee is not liable for any other fee due to the early termination of the contract. Further, the protection may not be waived or modified by the contract between the Servicemember and the lessor under any circumstances.
Cancellation of Motor Vehicle Insurance
An Insurer must refund 100% of the unearned premium if an insured Servicemember cancels due to either (1) a call to Active Duty or (2) transfer to a location where the insurance is not required. There is language in the statute preserving claims originating prior to the effective date of cancellation.
Terminating Residential Leases
The FUSPA expands protects Servicemembers who terminate residential leases due to military duty. This section includes the following specific provisions:
- No Retaliation. No Landlord may sue or otherwise attempt to retaliate against a tenant who terminated a lease because of military duties.
- No Discrimination. Landlords may not discriminate against military personnel. Discrimination on the basis of military status creates a cause of action against the landlord for civil damages.
- Expansion of Criteria Which Allow a Servicemember to Terminate a Lease. Servicemembers may terminate their leases within the purview of the statute when the Servicemember:
- Moves permanently 35 or more miles from the rental premises;
- Is prematurely or involuntarily discharged or released from Active Duty;
- Is released from Active Duty when the leased premises is at least 35 miles from the home of record;
- Is required or eligible to move into government quarters; and/or
- Moves temporarily for over 60 days to a location which is 35 or more miles from the rental premises.
- The Liquidated Damages Clause is No Longer Available in the Case of Military Termination of Lease.
Termination of Agreement to Purchase Real Property
Servicemembers may terminate agreements to purchase realty prior to closing if any of the following occur:
- The Servicemember has a permanent change of station which is 35 or more miles from the location of the property;
- The Servicemember is released from Active Duty and the property is more than 35 miles from the Servicemember’s home of record;
- The Servicemember receives orders requiring him or her to move into government quarters or does, in fact, move into government quarters; or
- The Servicemember receives orders in excess of 90 days which involve a temporary change of station which is 35 miles or more from the property.
The seller, mortgagor and/or their agents must refund any funds provided by the Servicemember. Further, no other fees may be assessed against the Servicemember. These protections can not be waived or modified.
Termination of Mobile Home & Vehicle Registration
Servicemembers whose mobile home or automobile registrations expire while on Active Duty may not be charged with a violation of Section 320.07, Florida Statutes, provided that they served 35 miles or more from their home of record and/or the mobile home.
Termination of Telecommunications Service Contracts
Servicemembers may now terminate their telecommunications (i.e. cell phone) service contracts by providing 30 days notice to the service provider if any of the following occur:
- The Servicemember moves, either (1) permanently or (2) on temporary duty for over 60 days, outside the area which the service provider provides telecommunications service;
- The Servicemember is discharged or released from duty and either (1) returns to an area not serviced by the telecommunications service provider or (2) the Servicemember’s home of record does is not so serviced by the provider; and/or
- The Servicemembers orders require a move outside the continental United States. Upon such termination the Servicemember is only liable for the amount due under the contract for the period up to the effective date (which is the end of the 30 day notice period).
Changes to the Bright Futures Scholarship Program
The scholarship availability period remains open for any person who enlists in the military as follows:
- For Persons Enlisting Immediately After High School. The three year eligibility period begins upon the person’s separation from Active Duty; and
- Scholarship Recipients Who Discontinue Education to Enlist. The remainder of their seven year renewal period begins upon the person’s separation from Active Duty.
A scholarship recipient in the Florida National Guard or U.S. Reserves who is called to Active Duty is eligible to continue their scholarship for two years after completing such duty.
Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) and the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act – (SCRA)
The FUSPA incorporates, by reference, both the SCRA and the USERRA. The SCRA is a federal law which addresses many of the same issues as the FUSPA. USERRA is the federal law which affords employment protections and rights to Servicemembers.
Active-duty, Reserve and National Guard personnel who need assistance with these matters or any other legal issues related to their military service or obligations should contact their Staff Judge Advocate for advice and assistance.
IMPORTANT NOTICE: The information contained on this page is not designed to render “legal advice” to anyone pertaining to matters affecting their rights. This publication is merely a guide to the legal rights and protections afforded activated military personnel under the Florida Statutes. Any decisions requiring legal guidance should be made with the assistance of the Judge Advocate section or your own private attorney.