FORT LEE, Va. (March 10, 2011) -- The latest consumer trap to catch Soldiers and their families is the so-called "rent incentives" that are often connected to rental properties surrounding Fort Lee. Occasionally, these incentives lead to complaints when Soldiers break their leases when housing on post becomes available.

In Virginia, breaking a lease can require 60 days notice and a cancellation fee. Landlords are now providing attractive incentives for renters to sign up for one-year leases. But these incentives may be too good to be true. You need to look at the "fine print" to be sure.

Examples of rent incentives and the "fine print" include the following:

• No rent for three whole months! If the lease is later broken, all three months must be repaid in full, with interest and sometimes added penalties.

• Relocate and we'll pay you! All discounts must be repaid in full if lease is broken at market value of services (e.g., moving).

• No application fee! But a large penalty for breaking the lease.

• Low monthly rent in your first year. Not just repayment of discount upon breaking the lease, but also only applies to multiple-year leases, and rent will be raised monthly in your second and third year.

• Rent to own! Put money away every month toward a down payment on the home you are already living in! If the lease is broken or you are unable to secure a mortgage at the end of your one-year lease, all money put toward the down payment on the home can be kept by the landlord.

You can still get the full benefit of rent incentives if you stay with the lease. But be careful of the fine print in the lease. Fine print in a lease can include provisions such as raising rent $25 per month, a condition that the lease is renewed or a disclaimer that the incentives can be terminated at any time without notice.

Remember, you agree to all the terms of a lease when you sign it. If the incentives sound too good to be true, they most likely are.

Should you have any questions regarding rent incentives or other legal matters, make an appointment with an attorney at the Legal Assistance Office by calling (804) 765-1500.