Protecting Those Who Serve
August 12, 2015
Federal laws protect our active-duty servicemen and women and their families from mortgage foreclosures and exorbitant interest rates.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to educate Arkansas’s active-duty servicemen and women and families about safeguards that are in place if they plan to buy or currently own a home.
“Our military men and women put their lives on the line to protect us, and they have unique needs because of their service,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Laws are in place to protect their homes while they are deployed, and they need to know about these programs.”
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act of 2003 (SCRA) protects active-duty service members from potentially harmful civil legal matters. These protections cover insurance, mortgage payments, interest rates, leases, contractual arrangements and civil judicial proceedings.
SCRA limits mortgage interest to 6 percent during military service and up to one year after service ends. It prevents a mortgage creditor from selling, foreclosing or seizing an active-duty service member’s mortgaged property during service and up to nine months after military service terminates. The SCRA also provides protection requiring a judge to stay mortgage proceedings if a service member shows that military service has affected his or her ability to comply with mortgage obligations. Many service members would benefit from mortgage relief measures, and SCRA underscores this by prohibiting a mortgage servicer from requiring a service member to be delinquent on payments in order to qualify for loss mitigation relief if he or she would otherwise qualify.
Meanwhile, the 2012 National Mortgage Settlement placed requirements on five major mortgage servicers: Ally, Bank of America, Citi, J.P. Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo. In addition to benefitting all homeowners, these mortgage servicers must notify service members who are 45 days delinquent on mortgage payments that they are entitled to SCRA protections and are eligible for financial counseling from Military OneSource and Armed Forces Legal Assistance. Arkansas was one of 49 states that settled with the mortgages servicers on allegations of illegal actions in servicing loans.
Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to help service members who need to take advantage of the protections provided under the SCRA:
- Inform the mortgage company that you are seeking protection under SCRA.
- Provide the lender with written notice of military service.
- Send the lender a copy of the orders calling the service member to active duty.
- Research time constraints that could impact eligibility for some protections.
- Consult the nearest Armed Forces Legal Assistance Office with questions regarding qualifications for SCRA.
In April, Rutledge launched the first-ever Military and Veterans Initiative at the Attorney General’s Office. This initiative seeks to assist active-duty military service members, reservists, veterans and their families with consumer related issues, Veterans Treatment Courts, the Hiring Heroes Program and many other collaborative efforts.
Arkansas military service members, veterans and families should file consumer complaints with the Attorney General’s Office on ArkansasAG.gov or by calling (800) 482-8982.