What is The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act?
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) is legislation that provides assistance and protection for service members on active duty status. Formerly known as the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act, the SCRA provides active duty service members with relief of certain civil obligations in issues relating to interest rates, loans, rental agreements, and civil cases. Adopted in 2003, the SCRA enables active duty members of the armed forces to devote their time and energy to national defense. There are a number of benefits and protections for those eligible under the SCRA.
Who is eligible under the SCRA?
SCRA eligibility applies to active duty members of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard, as well as Reserve members when serving on active duty, and National Guard mobilized by the federal government for longer than 30 days. The SCRA also applies to active duty commissioned Public Health Service officers or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officers.
The SCRA includes many benefits for eligible service members ranging from interest rate reductions to termination of leases when service members receive permanent change or deployment orders.
- Ability to terminate automobile leases signed before joining if the service member is mobilized, deployed, or received Permanent Change of Station orders (PCS orders) outside of the U.S. for at least 180 days.
- Ability to end a housing lease without penalty if deployed for at least 90 days.
- Interest on loans taken out before joining the military limited to 6%.
- Surviving family members, such as a military spouse, can terminate a lease if the service member dies on active duty. Benefits may not always apply to all dependents.
- Ability for service members to terminate telephone, cable, and internet contracts if relocated to a location with no coverage under those plans for at least 90 days.
In to SCRA benefits, the Act provides active duty servicemembers with a number of protections.
- Protection from eviction if rent is below a certain amount per month.
- Protection against the repossession of a vehicle without a court order if a deposit or one payment has been made before joining the military.
- Protection against foreclosure without a court order.
- Delay of civil proceedings including divorce and child support hearings.
- Self-storage facilities are prevented from selling active duty service members’ belongings if rent is overdue without a court order.
How long do these benefits last after military service?
After leaving active duty, the Act’s benefits and protections last a year in some cases, such as interest rate reduction. Some benefits expire immediately, 30 days, 90 days, or 180 days after leaving military service, depending on the SCRA protection or benefit.
4 – How do active duty service members use SCRA?
SCRA rights apply to many members of the military community, but are not automatically applied. In order to have an interest rate reduced, the service member must provide a copy of military orders to the company. In addition to providing military orders, service members must also give written notice in cases of terminating a lease. SCRA rights can be waived by the service member, although legal counsel should be sought before doing so.