Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act

Date: October 8, 2008

Bob, Karen and their two children had just moved into their brand new apartment when Bob received notice that his reserve unit was being called to active duty to eventually go to Afghanistan. Bob had signed a two year lease with this landlord obligating Bob to pay $900 per month in rent. Bob was employed as an accountant for a local accounting firm and was earning over $50,000 per year. With Bob\’s deployment, it became obvious that the family was going to have a difficult time paying their rent and meeting all their other expenses.

The landlord gave Bob\’s wife several warnings after Bob had been gone for six months, and the rent was now two months overdue. The landlord stated he would have to start an eviction proceeding against Bob\’s family.

Question: Will the landlord be successful?

Answer: The landlord will not be successful. Under the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act, men and women serving in the military are afforded protection from situations like this. That protection includes reduced interest on credit card debt, reduce interests on mortgage payments, protection from eviction if the rent is $1,200 or less, and delay of all civil court actions including bankruptcy actions and foreclosures.

The only way the landlord would be able to evict Bob\’s family is to get a court order authorizing the eviction. If, in fact, the landlord takes the matter to court, the court is allowed to grant a stay of up to three months or enter any other “order as may be just”. If the military service materially effects Bob\’s family\’s ability to pay the rent, the Judge is afforded wide latitude to protect Bob\’s family while Bob is serving his country.

Bob\’s family is also provided significant protection with regards to the limits of interest that may be collected on any of his debts. He cannot be charged more than 6% interest during the period Bob is in the military service. This provision applies to all debts incurred prior to the commencement of active duty and includes such things as interest on credit card debt, mortgages, car loans and other debts. This applies to all pre-service debts only, and the interest reduction doesn\’t automatically occur. Bob would have to request the same by notifying the lenders of his intent to utilize his 6% cap in writing along with providing the lenders proof of his mobilization/activation to active duty and provide them evidence of the difference in his military as opposed to his civilian pay.

Disclaimer: The above article is for instructive purposes only and each case is fact sensitive. Consultation with an attorney should be obtained instead of reliance upon the legal issues discussed in this column.

Joe Price
Attorney Joe Price is a seasoned Trial Lawyer serving Northeast, Central and Southeast Pennsylvania for the past forty (40) years. He has handled serious personal injury cases in courts throughout the Federal system including New Jersey and New York. Attorney Price is A.V. Rated by Martindale Hubble. He is Board Certified in Civil Practice by the National Board of Trial Advocacy since 1996.