Servicemembers Civil Relief Act
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) offers protections to MILITARY personnel in recognition of the special demands placed upon those serving on active duty. Reservists and members of the National Guard are also protected under the SCRA.
• Automobile Leases - Military members may also terminate automobile leases in certain circumstances. Just like with residential leases, if a member enters into an automobile lease before going on active duty, the member may request termination of the lease when he/she goes onto active duty. However, for this to apply, the active duty must be for at least 180 continuous days. So, if a person joined the Reserves and had orders for basic training and technical school, the total of which was only 120 days, he/she could not terminate the automobile lease under this act.
• Termination of Residential Leases - The SCRA allows individuals to break a lease when they go onto active duty, if the lease was entered into before going onto active duty. Additionally, the act allows a servicemember to terminate a residential lease entered into while in the military, if the member received permanent change of station (PCS) orders or orders to deploy for a period of not less than 90 days.
• Court Proceedings - If a servicemember is a defendant in a civil court proceeding, the court may (note the word "may"), on it's own motion, grant a 90-day stay (delay) in the proceedings. If the servicemember asks for a stay, the court must grant a minimum 90 day stay, if:
a. The servicemember submits a letter or other communication setting forth facts stating the manner in which current military duty requirements materially affect the servicemember's ability to appear and stating a date when the servicemember will be available to appear, and
b. The servicemember submits a letter or other communication from the servicemember's Commanding Officer stating that the servicemember's current military duty prevents appearance and that military leave is not authorized for the servicemember at the time of the letter.
• Evictions from Leased Housing - A servicemember may seek protection from eviction under SCRA. The rented/leased property must be occupied by the servicemember or his/her dependents for the purpose of housing, and the rent cannot exceed $2,400 (for 2004 - the actual amount is automatically adjusted each year by the inflation rate). The servicemember or dependent who has received notice of an eviction must submit a request to the court for protection under the SCRA. If the court finds that the servicemember's military duties have materially affected his ability to pay his rent timely, the judge may order a stay, postponement, of the eviction proceeding for up to three months or make any other "just" order.
• 6% Interest Rate - If a servicemember's military obligation has affected his/her ability to pay on financial obligations such as credit cards, loans, mortgages, etc., the servicemember can have his/her interest rate capped at 6% for the duration of the servicemember's military obligation. Keep in mind, the 6% cap only applies to loans entered into prior to active duty, not those signed later.
Reemployment Rights - Contrary to what many people believe, there are no provisions for Reemployment Rights as part of the SCRA. Reemployment rights are a completely separate legislation, The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA).
For more information, please go to : Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, Simplified.
If you have additional questions, please contact Mr. Stephen T. Lynch, the Ninth Coast Guard District's Legal Assistance Attorney.