Question: I’ve received a notice about a Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act against me. What should I do?
Answer: The Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act (“SCRA”) is a federal law that provides certain protections for those in military service. For foreclosure, the SCRA generally prevents lenders from foreclosing against homeowners in military service.
In Massachusetts, lenders determine whether borrowers fall under the protections of the SCRA through a court action, which is almost always brought in Land Court. The homeowner is served with a complaint and has a deadline for responding to the lawsuit and asserting any of their rights under the SCRA. If the borrower fails to respond, the lender is eligible to obtain a judgment from the Land Court declaring that the homeowner is not eligible for the protections of the SCRA. Lenders typically bring SCRA cases against all borrowers they are intending to foreclose, regardless of how likely it is that the borrower may be in the military.
When faced with an SCRA complaint, homeowners who are in the military should act quickly to protect their rights. Homeowners who are not in the military generally have no protections under the SCRA and as such, have few defenses in these cases. However, an SCRA case is a strong indication that the lender will begin a foreclosure soon, and homeowners faced with these cases should consult with an attorney to explore their options in avoiding foreclosure.