Military family, Pasco apartment at odds over lease

Geoff Folsom, Tri-City HeraldJuly 26, 2013 

Thai Lease Air Force

Sarah and Andrew Thai pause briefly Wednesday while cleaning the apartment they rented last March at The Crossing at Chapel Hill Apartments in Pasco. The couple said they are having a disagreement with management about terminating their lease. Sarah has military orders to report for her Air Force basic training in late August. They are joined by their children, Mikalah, 4, and Ryder, 11⁄2

BOB BRAWDY — Tri-City Herald Buy Photo

A Pasco woman says her apartment complex is making her pay thousands to get out of her lease, even though she is headed into the military.

Sarah Thai, 23, said she provided The Crossing at Chapel Hill, off Road 68, with copies of her military orders.

One is a delayed-entry program form she signed Jan. 17 when she joined the U.S. Air Force. The other shows she will report for active duty on Aug. 27 at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.

Thai and her husband, Andrew, gave notice to their apartment manager at the beginning of July that they would be moving out within 30 days to move in temporarily with Andrew's mother in West Richland, she said.

Andrew and the children -- Mikalah, 4, and Ryder, 18 months -- will move to Texas to join Sarah a few weeks after she leaves.

But the apartment management told them they would have to pay until Thai can show that she is active duty.

"They said we couldn't even turn in our 30-days notice until Aug. 27," she said.

Apartment manager Kasey McComas agrees that the federal Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Release Act protects military members, but said she cannot let the 30-day notice start until Thai is on active duty.

"That's why it's established," McComas said. "It's for active service members. Sarah and Andrew can absolutely get out of their lease when she is active."

The situation was reviewed by The Crossing's parent company, Utah-based Bach Property Management, and its attorneys, McComas said.

Thai's name doesn't show up in a search of a military database called the Department of Defense Manpower Data Center, McComas said.

"We are huge supporters of our service members," McComas said. "We work with our service members and we follow the law 100 percent."

But Thai, whose husband is a Marine veteran, said people she talks with in the military feel differently.

She would like to get an attorney in the case, but that would end up costing more than paying the complex, she said.

She plans to talk to an Air Force judge advocate general and has also been in contact with the office of U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Pasco.

Thai would have understood if the apartment managers made her pay August's rent, but she will now have to pay September's rent, as well, she said.

With fees included, the couple will have to pay more than $2,400 to get out of their lease, she said.

"It's kind of like they're doing everything possible to make it harder on us," Thai said. "We feel like they're not supporting the military, and they're going against everything the military stands for."

The couple has done everything good renters do, cleaning the apartment when they left this week, she said.

They even found people to assume the rest of their lease, but the management rejected them.

McComas said the proposed new renters did not meet the standards for residents in one of the categories it checks for -- income, rental history and a criminal background.

Thai's recruiter, Staff Sgt. Shawn Hansen, declined to discuss the legal issues involving apartment leases, saying only, "We're working on it."

Hansen referred questions to an Air Force recruiting spokesman, who could not be reached Friday.

-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; gfolsom@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom

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