The United States government has long recognized the fact that members of the military need special protective legislation due to the very nature of their job. When servicemembers are called to duty, it is quite common that they are unable to fulfill their financial obligations or assert their legal rights as would a civilian who is not serving their country via active duty in the military.
In December of 2003, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) was signed into law to take the place of the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act (SSCRA). This revision of the previous act provides members of the military expanded protection against certain judicial actions that could distract servicemembers from the duties they have been called to perform.
Basic protections provided by the SCRA
Termination of lease. Members of the military do not have the luxury of waiting until their lease is up to respond to their orders. When a servicemember receives active duty orders, PCS orders or deployment orders they are permitted to break their lease as long as they make the request in writing and provide a copy of their orders to the landlord. The servicemember would be held responsible for the rent owed to the landlord until the earliest termination date is reached (generally 30 days after the first date on which the next payment is due).
6% cap on interest rates for debts made before joining the military. Servicemembers who find their military obligations have affected their ability to pay debts such as credit cards, mortgages and other loans, have the right to have the interest rates on such accounts capped at 6% during the period of military obligation. To qualify the debts must have been incurred prior to active duty. Creditors who believe the servicemember’s military service has not affected their ability to pay may seek relief in court, however it is the burden of the creditor to prove whether or not the servicemember’s ability to pay has been affected. The SCRA does not apply to debt that was incurred while you were in the military. However, you may be able to open a 0% balance transfer credit card to reduce your credit card interest rates.
Stay of proceedings.Servicemembers who are defendants in a civil court proceeding may be granted a 90-day stay in the proceedings by the court. This is often decided by the court on their own without further action required by the servicemember. If, however the court does not voluntarily grant the delay, a servicemember can request a stay which must be granted if documentation is provided by either the servicemember or their commanding officer that states the servicemembers military obligation prevents their availability to appear in court.
These are just a few of the protections afforded to servicemembers who are on active duty. It is important to remember that this act is designed to protect servicemembers who are called upon to serve and protect the country. By providing extended protection during times of active duty, servicemembers can devote their full attention to their duty knowing they do not have to worry as much about what is happening at home. This protection is also needed to ensure servicemembers rights are protected at a time when they are not present to defend those rights.
This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific legal advice. We suggest that you discuss specific legal issues with a lawyer.