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Landlord, tenant issues, SCRA

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The Servicemembers' Civil Relief Act, or SCRA, of 2003 strengthened and expanded the Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act's, or SSCRA, protections.

Both Acts, in certain circumstances, entitle the servicemember to a reduction in credit card interest rates, protection from eviction and delayed court actions. Some of the changes create greater protections. However, a significant change in the law has created additional provisions for residential leases.

The SSCRA and the SCRA extend several protections to servicemembers who sign residential leases. These include protection against eviction and distress and protection for early lease termination under certain circumstances. The eviction and distress provision protects servicemembers and their dependents from eviction for failure to pay rent by prohibiting landlord self-help. Basically, if a landlord wants to evict a servicemember and his or her dependents for non-payment of rent, the landlord must first obtain a court order.

Where a landlord tries to initiate an eviction, he or she must apply to the proper court and show the member's military service had no material effect on his or her ability to pay. In other words, the landlord would have to show the member's military service did not create an inability to pay the rent. If the court finds that a servicemember's service materially impacted his or her ability to pay, the court must stay the eviction for 90 days upon receipt of the servicemember's application. During the stay, the landlord cannot evict a servicemember for the non-payment of rent, but the servicemember is still accountable for the rent. A landlord who violates the act may be imprisoned for a year and, or fined for wrongful eviction.

The SSCRA and SCRA also allow servicemembers the ability to terminate their leases early upon their permanent change in station or a deployment of 90 days or more. To terminate the lease, the servicemember must furnish written notice and a copy of the servicemember's military orders to the landlord.

The SCRA changed the SSCRA in other ways that afford greater legal protections to the military member tenant. First, the SCRA prohibits eviction, without a court order, of servicemembers and their dependents from rented housing where the rent does not exceed $2,400 per month. Second, a military clause is no longer required in the lease to invoke the act's protections. Finally, the right to stay court proceedings now extends to administrative hearings. These protections do not extend to criminal proceedings.

For questions or more information on the SCRA contact the 460th Space Wing Legal Office at 720-847-6444.
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