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Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act, Simplified


NOTE: On 19 December 2003, the President signed HR 100 into law. This law significantly enhances the protections shown below. See Servicemembers Civil Relief Act for details.

The very nature of military service often compromises the ability of service members to fulfill their financial obligations and to assert many of their legal rights. Congress and the state legislatures have long recognized the need for protective legislation. During the Civil War, the United States Congress enacted an absolute moratorium on civil actions brought against Federal soldiers and sailors, and various southern states enacted similar legislation. During World War I, Congress passed the Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act of 1918. The 1918 statute did not create a moratorium on actions against service members, but it directed trial courts to take whatever action equity required when a service member's rights were involved in a controversy.

The Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act (SSCRA) of 1940 is essentially a reenactment of the 1918 statute. Experience during World War II and subsequent armed conflicts made certain changes in the statute necessary. The first of these amendments became law in 1942. In amending the Act, Congress was motivated, in part, by the desire to override court decisions that, in some instances, had led to restrictive interpretations of the Act. The latest amendment occurred in 1991 as a result of Desert Shield/Storm.

Reservists and members of the National Guard (when in active federal service) are also protected under the SSCRA. SSCRA (for all) begins on the first day of active duty, which means when the person ships out to basic training (Basic Training, and job-school are considered active duty for Guard and Reserve personnel, as well as active duty personnel). Some protections under the act extend for a limited time beyond active duty discharge or release but are tied to the discharge/release date. Additionally, some of the Act’s protections extend to the members’ dependents.

(NOTE: In November 2002, Congress passed a law (the Veterans Benefits Act of 2002, Public Law 107-330. Section 305), which provides SSCRA protection to National Guard members called to state active duty under Title 32, if the duty is because of a federal emergency, the request for active duty is made by the President or Secretary of Defense, and the member is activated for longer than 30 days. An example of this would be the National Guard members who were activated by the states, at the request of the President, to provide security for airports after 9-11).

Termination of Pre-Service Lease Agreements

A service member who is leasing/renting property used for dwelling, professional, business, agricultural or similar purposes may terminate a lease that was 1) signed before the service member entered active duty and 2) the lease/rented premises have been occupied for the above purposes by the service member or his/her dependents.

The service member must deliver written notice of termination to the landlord after entry on active duty or receipt of orders for active duty. The termination date for a month-to-month lease/rental is 30 days after the first date on which the next rental payment is due after the termination notice is delivered. For example, if rent is due on the 1st of the month and notice is delivered to the landlord on August 5th, the next rent due is September 1st. Therefore, the lease/rental agreement will terminate on October 1st. 

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