Active duty service members have to follow moving orders given to them while serving their country, and it could potentially cause a financial crisis without any fault of their own. The Service Member Civil Relief Act (SCRA) was enacted in 2003 to protect our active duty service members.
Who is covered under SCRA?
Active duty service members. This includes Coast Guard, Reserves and National Guard, though there are some differences in protections for non-active family members. Certain public health services are included as well. The protection begins with the start of your active or eligible service and ends shortly after exiting the service.
What is protected?
SCRA protects the active duty service member in cases of lease agreements. It also provides protection for credit card and mortgage interest rates, foreclosures, insurance and tax issues. The SCRA protects you and your active duty family members from eviction from a lease if you cannot make rent. You also have the right to terminate your lease when you receive PCS orders or when you are deployed to a new location for 90 days or more. You or your dependents MUST occupy the house. You can reach out to your local JAG legal office if your issue is covered.
Related Reading: PCS Guide: Buying and Selling a Home Simultaneously
COVID 19: Lease Protections Update
The Senate VA Committee acted quickly in May 2020 and expanded SCRA legal protections to military members impacted by the COVID 19 pandemic. It now included additional legal protections for lease terminations due to the Stop Movement Orders issued by the military early in 2020.
The Stop Movement orders will have to be due to a national emergency and have to be issued for longer than a 30 day period. The order must prevent the eligible service member or the dependents “from occupying the lease for a residential, professional, business, agricultural or other purpose.”
It is important to mention that the expanded SCRA protections are retroactive to when these orders were first issued after March 1, 2020. These protections can potentially help you resolve legal disputes with your landlord. Contact your closest JAG office for assistance.
Focus: Lease protections
Relocation orders are given to the service member at times that do not necessarily coincide with the end of a lease, so part of the SCRA includes protections for penalty free termination of these leases. There are some rules to pay attention to:
Terminating Your Lease
You may terminate your residential lease if (all of the following):
- You entered into the lease BEFORE your call to active duty
- You signed the lease or it was signed on your behalf
- You are currently serving or you were called to active duty for 180 days or more
If ANY of the following occur:
- You have received PCS orders
- You are deployed for 90 days or more
You must provide the landlord with a written notice AND a copy of your PCS orders.
Related Reading: Colorado Springs Relocation Guide
SCRA ensures that:
- Landlords have to obtain a court order in order to evict you or your dependent unless the rent is higher than $3,991.90.
- Upon your request, an eviction order can be delayed for 90 days or the court may decide whether to postpone an eviction and for how long.
- You cannot be evicted if you prove that the military duty significantly reduces your ability to make rent.
- Your landlord may be subject to fines or even imprisonment if he tries to evict you regardless of your situation.
NOTE: To be clear this does not excuse or prevent nonpayment of rent in itself, but only when a financial hardship is caused due to military service.