Captain Dan Jones
Legal Assistance Attorney
Reservists often find it difficult to meet their personal financial and legal obligations as a result of mobilization. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) was created to ease this burden.
Interestingly enough, this area of the law actually provides far greater protection for Reservists than it does for the Active Duty Sailor. The SCRA was created to protect Reservists who are often unexpectedly called away from their day-to-day civilian jobs and returned to full time active duty service. Many Reservists make far less money when they are called to duty. To prevent financial hardship, the SCRA protects Reservists and their families from foreclosure, eviction and allows them to reduce interest rates on mortgages and credit cards as long the financial obligation was incurred prior to being recalled to active duty. The SCRA can even break a residential lease, vehicle lease or cell phone contract if you are mobilized.
LEASES. The SCRA allows Reservists to break a residential and other lease agreement when they go onto active duty, if the lease was entered into before going onto active duty. The act also allows active duty sailors to terminate a residential lease entered into while in the military, if the member receives permanent change of station (PCS) orders or orders to deploy for a period of not less than 90 days. To break a lease under these provisions, the servicemember must make the request in writing, and must include a copy of their orders (orders placing them on active duty, PCS orders or on deployment). The member should deliver the notification by mail with return receipt requested to prove when it was sent and received.
EVICTIONS. Reservists also have eviction protection under the SCRA. The rented/leased property must be occupied by the servicemember or his/her dependents for the purpose of housing. The servicemember or dependent who has received notice of an eviction must submit a request, in writing, seeking protection under the SCRA. If the servicemember’s military duties have materially affected their ability to timely pay rent or their mortgage may postpone the eviction proceeding for up to 3 months.
6% INTEREST. If a Reservist’s military service has affected his/her ability to pay on financial obligation such as a credit card, car loan, mortgages, etc., the Reservist can have his/her interest rate capped at 6% for the duration of the service member’s military obligation. In order to qualify for this reduction, the debt must have been incurred by the service member, or the servicemember and their spouse, jointly, BEFORE coming onto active duty. Debts entered into AFTER going on active duty are NOT eligible. The Reservist must provide the creditor written notice and a copy of the military orders calling them to active duty.
DEFAULT. If a Reservist is a defendant in a civil court proceeding, the court may grant a 90-day stay (delay) in the proceedings or prevent an order of default from being entered if the servicemember submits a letter stating why their current military duty materially affects their ability to appear and states a date when the servicemember will be available to appear and the servicemember’s Commanding Officer states that the sailor’s current military duty prevents appearance and that military leave is not authorized for them at the time of the hearing. This provision applies to civil lawsuits, suits for paternity, child custody suits, and bankruptcy debtor/creditor meetings, and administrative proceedings.
As with all legal issues, the SCRA has some very specific requirements that must be followed in order to take advantage of these incredible benefits. Please contact a Legal Assistance attorney to discuss your particular situation and to see what relief may be available to you under the SCRA.