Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)
DISCLAIMER: The information on this page is NOT to be construed as legal advice, and is only provided to help our clients/customers better understand the nature of our services and consultations. Legal decisions should NOT be made without consulting an Attorney.
Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), 50 U.S.C. App. secs. 501-597b.
If you believe you have a situation in which the SCRA may protect you, consult with the Legal Assistance Office as soon as possible by coming in during walk-in hours for consultation. Many states have similar statutes that may provide more protections than the federal statute.
(1) to provide for, strengthen, and expedite the national defense through protection extended by this Act to servicemembers of the United States to enable such persons to devote their entire energy to the defense needs of the Nation; and
(2) to provide for the temporary suspension of judicial and administrative proceedings and transactions that may adversely affect the civil rights of servicemembers during their military service.
The SCRA is not designed to give servicemembers a means to irresponsibly evade his/her financial/legal responsibilities; it provides protection to the extent your service may hinder your ability to take or participate in your civil legal rights. For example, many of the protections such as a stay in civil legal proceedings, foreclosure, storage lien, and repossession of automobiles and other personal property are contingent upon the servicemember proving that his/her military service materially affected his/her ability to take appropriate actions.
The SCRA does NOT apply to criminal proceedings.
The SCRA does NOT apply to Japanese parties such as leasing agencies or cellular phone companies.
As a general matter, the SCRA protections apply to Active Duty Military Personnel, not to dependents in their own right or DOD civilian employees. See noted exceptions:
*In some cases, persons that may be secondarily liable may benefit from its protections if the servicemember is able to invoke his/her SCRA rights, i.e. a spouse that jointly owns real estate with a servicemember that was subject to foreclosure procedures.
*Additionally, certain protections can extend to spouses/dependents if the court finds that the spouse/dependent's ability to comply with a lease, contract, bailment or other obligation is materially affected by the servicemember's service.
Lastly, many of the protections provided under the Act apply to pre-service obligations, and do not extend to obligations undertaken while on active duty, i.e. foreclosure protection and interest rate protection.
Waiver of Rights: thoroughly read any contract you sign and consult with a Legal Assistance Attorney because it is possible to waive your SCRA rights; this is a decision you should not make without legal consultation.
- Protection Against Default Judgments: a servicemember may be able to reopen a case that was subject to a default judgment against him/her if the servicemember was materially affected by his/her military service from defending against the action, and there was a meritorious defense.
- Stay of Civil Court Proceedings: when a servicemember is provided notice of a civil action in which he/she is a party, a stay of proceedings of at least 90 days must be given by the court if the military service materially affects the ability of the servicemember to appear for the proceeding. This protection includes child custody proceedings. To invoke this protection, the servicemember is required to submit a letter on his/her behalf and a letter from his/her commanding officer certifying the material affect.
- Stay or Vacation of Execution of Judgments, Attachments, and Garnishments: if a court finds that military service has materially affected the ability of a servicemember to comply with a money judgment or order of a court, the court must stay the execution of said judgment or order as well as stay any attachment or garnishment of property or wages.
- Maximum Rate of Interest on Debt Accrued Prior to Military Service: when military service materially affects the ability of a servicemember to pay debts owed to a creditor for debt accrued prior to that military service, the servicemember can request a reduction of the interest rate to six (6) percent. The reduction extends to the period of military service and one year thereafter.
- Evictions: except by court order, a landlord may not evict a servicemember or his/he dependents from a primary residence that does not lease for more than approximately $2,900.00 a month at current rates. *This protection may need to be invoked for servicemembers on UDP or unaccompanied tours.
- Foreclosures: for mortgages on real property executed prior to active duty military service, a creditor may not sell, seize, or foreclose upon the property without a valid court order. This protection is regardless of state law or contractual rights that may normally authorize a creditor to foreclose through non-judicial proceedings. Further, this protection can compel the court to set aside a foreclosure or sale to protect the servicemember during the period of military service and nine months afterwards.
NOTE: this does NOT apply to mortgages assumed during military service.
- Termination of Residential or Motor Vehicle Leases:
(1) Residential: a servicemember may terminate a residential lease upon entry into the military, or when he/she is in receipt of PCS orders or deployment orders for a period of 90 days or more. A servicemember must notify the landlord in writing and the termination will be effective 30 days after the next date that rent is due.
(2) Motor Vehicle: a servicemember may terminate a motor vehicle lease either upon entry into the military service for a period of 180 days or more; OR
when the servicemember executed the lease during military service, the servicemember may terminate the lease when in receipt of PCS orders from CONUS to OCONUS; to any location outside of Alaska and Hawaii if stationed there when the lease was executed; or when deployed in support of a military operation for 180 days or more.
NOTE: these provisions are often applicable specifically to UDP personnel.
- Termination of Telephone Service Contracts: does NOT apply to Japanese cellular phone companies. For a U.S. based cellular phone contract, a servicemember may terminate the contract if he/she subsequently receives military orders to a location that does not support the contract for a period of 90 days or more, i.e. Okinawa, Japan. Unlike residential leases, this termination shall take effect immediately and cannot be subject to any early termination charges.
- Also, the provider must allow the servicemember to keep his/he current cellular phone number for a period of three or less years as long as the servicemember re-subscribes to the service within 90 days after returning to an area in which the contract is serviced.
- If the servicemember re-establishes a contractual relationship with the provider within 90 days of returning from military duty, the provider cannot assess a charge for re-instating the service.