- Jared Hartman, Esq.
- Posted on July 28, 2014
If you or a loved one is in any branch of the military and is deployed or pending deployment, the servicemember may be protected from being declared to be in default on certain financial obligations. Members of the national military branches (U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps, or U.S. Navy) are protected under federal law found at 50 U.S.C. Appendix 500 to 597b—known as the Federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. Members of the California National Guard or the California Reserves are protected under state law found at California Military and Veterans Code 800 to 812—known as the California Military Families Financial Relief Act. State guardsmen of any state may be protected under the federal laws if they are dispatched in response to a national emergency under Presidential orders.
- To not be found in default on certain financial credit obligations during a specified time period as provided by law (typically no less than 6 months and no longer than the term of deployment);
- To defer payments on the financial obligation for a specified time period as provided by law;
- To not be subjected to any remedies granted to the creditor for breach of the payment obligations (such as prohibitions from vehicle repossession, home foreclosure, derogatory credit reporting, and/or pursuing a lawsuit); and
- Possible reduction in the interest rate upon the outstanding debt so that the accumulated interest is no oppressive upon reinstating financial obligations.
However, in order to invoke these protections, both sets of laws require the servicemember to take the following actions:
- Send a letter to the creditor, signed by the servicemember under penalty of perjury, requesting deferment of the specific financial obligation, and
- Enclose with the letter a copy of the servicemember’s deployment orders.
Please note that THE ONLY WAY TO INVOKE THESE PROTECTIONS IS TO TAKE THE ACTIONS DESCRIBED ABOVE.
Many financial institutions are not properly informed of these laws, and therefore they do not properly train their employees and agents on how to honor these protections. It is VERY COMMON for financial institutions to simply ignore the written request for deferment, or to erroneously claim that the servicemember is not protected. This is especially true when the servicemember is a California guardsman and the financial institution is not familiar with the California state laws that specifically protect guardsmen in the absence of protection under federal laws.
A financial institution that ignores these protections, IF PROPERLY INVOKED BY THE SERVICEMEMBER, is subject to a civil lawsuit to recover actual damages (such as emotional distress and/or loss of actual money or property), as well as attorney’s fees and costs of bringing the lawsuit. Such a lawsuit is permitted regardless of whether the financial institution knew they were breaking the law. However, intentional violations of these laws may result in criminal charges being prosecuted against the financial institution.
The California laws also protect the deployed servicemember’s spouse in the same manner as the servicemember, which means the spouse also has standing to bring his/her own lawsuit if s/he experienced any of the violations directly.
The law offices of Semnar Law Firm, Inc. and Hartman Law Offices, Inc. have teamed up to file multiple cases under these laws, and the two firms regularly tie these violations into additional causes of action under the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the California Rosenthal Act. For example, one client who properly invoked his protections against Alphera Financial Services (a subsidiary of BMW Financial Services) and his wife had to experience the unfortunate experience of being actively harassed by Alphera during the serevicemember’s deployment with excessive phone calls, threats of repossession, threats of criminal prosecution, and the company’s agents even told the servicemember and his wife that they don’t care about these laws and they intended to repossess the vehicle for what they considered to be a default. This lawsuit can be found under this case number 5:14-cv-01357, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
DO NOT LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU!!!! If you or a loved one is a servicemember who is deployed or is pending deployment, contact us immediately for a FREE, CONFIDENTIAL consultation to discuss your rights and the specific circumstances of any potential violations of your rights
Contact us today to schedule a free confidential consultation to discuss your rights!