Servicemembers Civil Relief Act

Servicemembers Civil Relief Act

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The “Servicemembers Civil Relief Act” (SCRA) was enacted in 2003. This law is the latest in a series of statutory protections dating back to the Civil War for active service members, including the predecessor statute the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act. The SCRA provides protection to servicemembers regarding residential leases, automobile leases, installment contracts, interest rates, court proceedings, and some tax protections.

Residential Leases

If a servicemember is a named party on a residential lease, the SCRA allows him to terminate it for entering active duty, or he receives orders for a permanent change of station or to deploy for a period of not less than 90 days. In order to take advantage of these protections, the servicemember has to make a written request with a copy of their orders. The lease will then be terminated 30 days after the date on which the next regularly scheduled payment is due. Like most contracts the statutory mandate is the minimum required. Particularly in areas with a large military presence, there may be additional protections that are provided in your lease.  

In addition, the servicemember can be protected from evictions from a residence occupied by the servicemember or dependants for which the monthly rent does not exceed a certain amount. If the court determines that the servicemember or dependents are unable to pay their rent on time as a direct result of the servicemember’s military duties, they may order that the eviction be postponed for up to three months.

Automobile Leases

A new provision similar to the protection for residential leases allows the termination of automobile leases for use by servicemembers and their dependents. Automobile leases may be cancelled if the servicemember receives orders to active duty for a period of 180 days or more or permanent change of station orders outside the continental US. The servicemember is responsible for title, tags, excess wear and mileage, but cannot be charges with an early termination fee.

Interest Rates

If a servicemember has debts that were incurred prior to entering military service, and if the her  military service has directly affected her  ability to pay those debts, the servicemember can have the interest rate capped at six percent (6%) for the duration of her military service. The service member must request this reduction in writing and include a copy of her orders. Note that the language of the statute specifies that the excess interest is forgiven and not just deferred to be collected at a later time.

Court Proceedings

Where I generally have run into this act, is the provision regarding court proceedings. If a servicemember is a defendant in a civil proceeding, the servicemember may ask for a postponement if he submits a statement along with a statement from his commanding officer explaining how their current duty requirements prevent them from appearing. The SCRA also would allow a court to reopen a default judgment entered against the servicemember if it is clear that the servicemember was unable to defend themselves due to their military service and they have a legal defense to the action. The new statute also extends this protection to administrative hearings.


The SCRA also has a provision that would prevent states from increasing the tax bracket of a nonmilitary spouse who earned income in the state by adding in the service member’s military income for the limited purpose of determining the nonmilitary spouse’s tax bracket. This practice has had the effect of increasing the military family’s tax burden.

Happy Veteran's Day.

–Bradley A. Coxe is a practicing attorney in Wilmington, NC with Hodges & Coxe PC who specializes in Personal Injury, Medical Malpractice, Homeowner's Associations, Contract and Real Estate disputes and all forms of Civil Litigation.  Please contact him at (910) 772-1678. 

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