Lately, we’ve had a few hotline questions concerning the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (“SCRA”). The SCRA is a federal law providing some protections for servicemembers.
A servicemember is defined as: active-duty members of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard; Members of the Reserve component when serving on active duty; members of the National Guard component mobilized under federal orders for more than 30 consecutive days; or active duty commissioned officers of the Public Health Service or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
You may also know that there are key provisions of the SCRA that have been passed into law in Virginia. Virginia adds more protections to servicemembers than the Federal Act does. REALTORS® need to be aware of a few key provisions: protections against default judgements in civil cases and termination of residential housing.
Servicemember protections against default judgment are found on § 8.01-15.2. If you find yourself as a plaintiff in a civil lawsuit against, you will have to certify that the defendant is not a servicemember. If you do not do so and there is a default judgment against the defendant, you can find yourself in trouble afterwards. If you don’t do your due diligence or falsify the certification, you could also find yourself under investigation.
For property managers, the SCRA does allow the termination of a residential lease under the VRLTA § 55.1-1235. A servicemember can terminate the lease if: they received permanent change of station orders to depart 35 miles or more (radius) from the location of the dwelling unit, have received temporary duty orders in excess of three months’ duration to depart 35 miles or more (radius) from the location of the dwelling unit, if they are discharged or released from active duty with the Armed Forces of the United States or from full-time duty or technician status with the National Guard, or are ordered to report to government-supplied quarters resulting in the forfeiture of basic allowance for quarters.
When filing suit or receiving notice of termination for a lease, please be mindful of the SCRA requirements.