Employment Law

Know Your Rights: The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act

WORK-LIFE LAW AND POLICY CLINIC

www.law.asu.edu/worklifeclinic

(480) 727-2382

Prepared by Adam Reich, Certified Limited Practice Student, Spring 2011. Updated Winter 2013 by Ijana

Harris, Certified Limited Practice Student. Marcy Karin, Faculty Supervisor. This document provides

general information only. Please consult with an attorney if you need legal advice.

 

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS: THE SERVICEMEMBERS CIVIL RELIEF ACT

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) postpones or suspends certain civil obligations to enable servicemembers to devote full attention to duty and to relieve stress on family members. This document summarizes some of the SCRA’s key provisions and how servicemembers may exercise their rights under the law.

Who and What is Covered by the SCRA?

The SCRA affords protection to individuals who are: (1) entering the military; (2) called for active duty; or (3) deployed for more than 180 days. The protections relate to: outstanding debt, rental agreements, mortgages, motor vehicle leases, telephone service contracts, civil judicial proceedings, and taxes.

Interest Rate Protection

Lenders must drop the interest rate of servicemember’s loans incurred prior to deployment or permanent change of station to 6%. Any amount over the 6% must be forgiven automatically; it may not be added or sought after the servicemember returns from service. This protection applies to loans that were incurred by the servicemember individually or jointly with his or her spouse before being called up to service. To exercise this right, the servicemember must provide written notice to the lender along with a copy of his or her orders.

Eviction Protection

When deployed, a servicemember’s family may not be evicted for failure to pay rent up to $3,329.84 per month. The price is adjusted each year to account for inflation. This protection does not forgive the debt that is owed; rather, it prevents eviction while the servicemember is deployed.

Termination of Lease of Premises

A servicemember and his/her dependents may terminate a lease for a residential, professional, business, agricultural, or similar use, if: (1) the lease was executed by the individual before entering service; (2) the lease was executed during service, but the individual subsequently received orders for a permanent change of station, or (3) a servicemember is deployed for at least 90 days. While the lease may be terminated, the servicemember remains liable for all unpaid rent or charges accrued prior to termination, as well as any damages to the premises.

To exercise this right, the servicemember must provide written notice to the landlord; oral termination is insufficient. A copy of the military orders that summon the servicemember to active duty, permanently change his/her station, or require deployment also must be provided. Notice may be given by hand delivery, use of a private business carrier, or US mail with sufficient postage and return receipt requested.

Termination of Auto Leases

A pre-existing auto lease may be terminated if a servicemember or dependent is ordered to deploy or enter active duty for at least 180 days, or to move outside of the Continental United States. To effectively terminate the lease, the servicemember must provide written notice and a copy of the military orders. In addition, the servicemember must return the vehicle within 15 days after delivering this notice. The servicemember is still responsible for damages to the vehicle.

Termination of Cell Phone Contract

A cell phone contract may be terminated by a servicemember or his or her dependent if orders are received to deploy or to change station to a location where his or her current phone provider does not have service. The servicemember must provide written notice and a copy of the military orders. When a cell phone contract is broken, the servicemember is responsible for the difference between the discount cost of the phone he or she received and the actual cost of the phone.

Delay of Court and Administrative Proceedings

A qualified servicemember may request a stay of any civil or administrative proceeding for at least 90 days after the termination of his or her tour of duty. To request a stay, which puts a lawsuit on hold, a servicemember must send “a letter or other communication” to the court explaining how military duty impacts the ability to appear and when he or she will be able to appear. In addition, a letter from the servicemember’s commanding officer must be provided that states that military obligations prevent the servicemember from appearing, and military leave is not authorized at this time. This provision does not apply to criminal proceedings.

Deferral of Income Tax Payments

Upon notice to the IRS or state tax authority, a servicemember whose ability to pay taxes is materially affected by service may defer the collection of any federal or state income tax that is due before or during military service for up to 180 after leaving military services. No interest or penalties may be accrued on taxes deferred under the SCRA. This deferred tax may not be collected until 270 days after the end of the period of military service.

Where can I find out more?

50 U.S.C. App. § 501 et seq.

The Department of Justice has information on the SCRA at http://www.justice.gov/crt/spec_topics/military/scra.php.

Military.com provides basic information on the SCRA at http://www.military.com/benefits/legal-matters/scra/overview.

The American Bar Association’s checklist for judges to follow when applying the SCRA at http://apps.americanbar.org/family/military/scrajudgesguidecklist.pdf.

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This website has been prepared for general information purposes only. The information on this website is not legal advice. Legal advice is dependent upon the specific circumstances of each situation. Also, the law may vary from state-to-state or county-to-county, so that some information in this website may not be correct for your situation. Finally, the information contained on this website is not guaranteed to be up to date. Therefore, the information contained in this website cannot replace the advice of competent legal counsel licensed in your jurisdiction.

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