The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) is a program that provides certain protections from civil actions against servicemembers who are called to Active Duty. It restricts or limits actions against these personnel in the areas of financial management, such as rental agreements, security deposits, evictions, installment contracts, credit card interest rates, mortgages, civil judicial proceedings, income tax payments, and more.
The SCRA was enacted in 2003 and was formerly known as the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act (SSCRA) of 1940. It is a federal law that provides protections to individuals in the military. The laws purpose is to postpone, suspend, terminate or reduce the amount of certain civil obligations so that members of the armed forces and certain other individuals can focus their full attention on their military or professional responsibilities without adverse consequences.
The SCRA protects you during periods of military service and, in certain instances, for a period of time after your military service has ended. If you are a member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard who is on active duty status, or who is absent from duty as a result of being wounded or being granted leave, you are protected by the SCRA.
You are also protected by the SCRA if you are a member of the National Guard and you received a specific type of activation orders. Finally, the SCRA protects you if you are an active service commissioned officer of the Public Health Service or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
SCRA Protections from High Interest Rates
You have the right to request that the interest rates, including all fees, you pay on credit cards, mortgages, student loans (as of 2008, including federally-subsidized student loans), and other loans that you obtained prior to entering into military service be reduced to six percent per year during your military service.
For pre-service mortgages, you are entitled to receive the six percent interest rate not only for your period of military service, but also for one year after you complete your service.
SCRA Protections for Car, Truck and Other Vehicles
If you purchased or leased your vehicle and made a deposit or installment payment before you entered military service, then your creditor or lessor may not terminate your contract or repossess your vehicle for breach of contract without a court order while you are in military service.
SCRA Home Foreclosure Protections
If you obtained a mortgage before you entered into military service, then the SCRA requires that your lender get a court order before it can foreclose on your home during any period of military service and for nine months thereafter. The lender must get a court order even in states that generally allow foreclosures without a court order. If your lender seeks such a court order, and you can show that you have been unable to meet your financial obligation because of your military service, the court must temporarily stay the proceedings or adjust the amount of your obligation to the lender.
SCRA Eviction Protections as a Renter
If your monthly rent is less than $3,047.45 per month (as of 2012), your landlord may not evict you or your dependents from a home that is used primarily as a residence during a period of military service without a court order. If an eviction action is filed against you or one of your dependents, the court must temporarily stay the proceedings or adjust the amount of your financial obligation if you can show that you have been unable to meet your financial obligations under the lease because of your military service.
SCRA Protections for Student Loans
If you are currently serving on active duty, you are eligible to have your interest rate lowered to 6% on all student loans taken out prior to your active duty military service. This benefit applies to both your federal and non-federal (private) student loans and is available for all active duty servicemembers, regardless of where you serve.
To obtain an interest rate reduction under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), contact your servicer and ask about this option directly. You will need to send a written request to your servicer, and will also need to provide your servicer with a copy of your orders calling you on to active duty. You can submit your request anytime during your active duty service and up to 180 days after leaving service.
Can I be penalized for asserting my rights under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)?
Asserting your rights under the SCRA cannot be a basis for a determination by a lender that you are unable to pay a financial obligation. A creditor cannot deny you credit, revoke your credit, change the terms of an existing credit arrangement, or refuse to give you credit in the amount or on the terms requested by you because you asserted your rights under the SCRA.
Negative information may not be reported to credit bureaus simply because you asserted your rights under the SCRA. It cannot trigger a bad report on your creditworthiness. But, if the creditor has complied with the SCRA and you are late sending in your payments, then they can report you to the credit bureaus.
An insurer may not refuse to insure you, or change the terms or conditions of your insurance, because you asserted your rights under the SCRA.
Can SCRA protections be waived?
Yes, you may waive any of the rights and protections provided to you by the SCRA. However, a waiver of certain SCRA rights and protections must be in writing. For example, a waiver of a right or protection provided by the SCRA that applies to a contract, lease, or similar legal instrument must be in writing and in at least 12 point font.
Who can I contact if I believe that my rights under the SCRA were violated?
In order to have your SCRA matter reviewed by the Department of Justice (DOJ), you must first seek the assistance of your military legal assistance office. If that office cannot resolve the complaint, it may choose to forward the complaint to the DOJ. The DOJ then will review the matter to determine whether DOJ action is appropriate. However, in emergency situations (such as an imminent foreclosure, eviction or repossession), you can contact Civil Rights Division’s Housing and Civil Enforcement Section:
- (202) 514-4713
- TTY – 202-305-1882
U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Housing and Civil Enforcement Section, NWB
Washington, D.C. 20530
Servicemembers Civll Relief Act Resources
- Contact your Judge Advocate General for assistance. A JAG can help you properly word your request and make sure you meet the technical requirements set forth in the Act. To find the JAG attorney nearest to you, use the Armed Forces Legal Assistance Locator.
- Servicemembers.gov – www.servicemembers.gov – The Department of Justice’s portal on servicemembers’ rights.
- Servicemembers Civil Relief Act – www.dmdc.osd.mil/appj/scra/ – The official website for the SCRA.