The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act is designed to allow military members to devote their full attention to their military duties. When servicemembers are fighting to secure our freedom in America, the last thing they want are distractions when it comes to civil obligations back home.
The original relief act was passed by Congress during World War I. At the time it was called the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act. It was reenacted during World War II and then modified during Operation Desert Storm. On December 19, 2003 the modified version was signed into law and renamed the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, also known as SCRA.
Servicemembers who are covered under this act include active duty military members, reservists who are in active federal service, and National Guard who are in active federal service. Dependents of active duty military members are covered under some benefits as well.
Below are the most common forms of relief for military members.
Interest rates are capped at 6%
A servicemember can cap the interest rate on all loans that went into effect before beginning active duty. This includes student loans, mortgages, and interest rates on credit cards, among other loans. In order to qualify the servicemember must prove they are active duty, that the loan originated before entry into active duty, and the active duty status affects their ability to pay their loans on time. The servicemember must send a copy of current military orders along with a letter requesting interest rate relief under the SCRA. This must occur no later than 180 days after the release from active duty service. The cap will last for the duration of active duty service.
Postponement or termination of lawsuits
If the servicemember is sued for any reason, they can obtain a “stay” or postponement of those proceedings. The stay may be used to stop the action altogether depending on the nature of the proceedings. The stay can be requested during any phase of the proceedings. It is up to the servicemember to show that their military service affects their ability to show up in court. The postponment or termination can be granted in administrative proceedings.
Default judgements from another party
If a servicemember is sued while on active duty, and fails to respond as a result of a default judgement, the servicemember can reopen the default judgement by taking the following steps. The servicemember must show that the judgement was entered during active duty military service or within 30 days of leaving service. The servicemember must write to the court requesting the default judgement be reopend while in active duty service or within 90 days of leaving the service. Also, the servicemember must not have made an appearance in court or responded to the default judgement in any way prior to the default judgement being entered. Finally, the servicemember must show that their military service would not allow them to respond to the default judgement.
Eviction protection for your house or apartment
If the servicemember is leasing an apartment or house and the rent is below $3,217.81 (2014) then they will have protection of eviction for up to 3 months. If the landlord keeps trying to evict the servicemember they could face fines of their own. If this is something the servicemember would like to pursue it is recommended they speak with a legal assistant attorney.
Lawful termination of a lease
Servicemembers who are entering acive duty service may lawfully terminate a lead without penalty. To qualify for this the servicemember must show that the lease was signed prior to the start of active duty service. Proper writen notice must be provided to the landlord along with a copy of active duty service orders.
Temporary relief from mortgages
Servicemembers can get relief from mortgages as long as the mortgage originated before beginning active duty service. The property must still be owned by the servicmember and prove that the mortgage payment is affected due to active duty military service.
Automobile lease termination
Servicemembers may terminate automobile leases if they are called up for military service of 180 days or longer. If an automobile lease originates while on active duty, the termination can occur if they are given orders for a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) out of the continental U.S.
As you can see, the SCRA can really help our servicemembers while they are fighting for our freedom. After all, freedom is not free.