Other Legal Protections and Rights Provided By State And Federal Law

Other Legal Rights for VeteransBelow are some of the protections and rights provided to you as a servicemember by State and Federal Law. It is important to note that the rights and protections provided by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), 50 USC App 3901, et seq., apply to active duty service under Title 10 and, for members of the National Guard, active service under Title 32 when authorized by the President or the Secretary of Defense for a period of more than 30 consecutive days for purposes of responding to a national emergency declared by the President and supported by Federal funds. The SCRA does not apply to Governor-ordered state military service by members of the National Guard. Michigan law, however, extends many of the SCRA rights and protections to state active service.  

Right to Terminate Property Leases

The SCRA allows you to break a lease when you go on active duty, if the lease was entered into before going on active duty. You may also terminate a lease entered into during military service if you receive orders for a permanent change of station or deployment for 90 days or more in support of a military operation. This protection covers leases of premises occupied, or intended to be occupied, by you or your dependents for a residential, professional, business, agricultural, or similar purpose.

In order to break your lease under the SCRA, you must make the request to your landlord in writing and include a copy of your orders. If you have a month-to-month lease, the earliest termination date is 30 days after the first date that the next payment is due. For example, if you give your notice to terminate on August 15, and the next rent payment is due on September 1, the termination is effective on September 31. For all other types of leases, the earliest termination date is the last day of the month. 

If you and your spouse or other dependent have a joint lease, the landlord cannot hold your spouse/dependent to the lease when you terminate it. 50 USC App 3955.

Right to Terminate Auto Leases

The SCRA also gives you the right to terminate your automobile lease. If you are going on active duty for at least 180 days, you may request termination of an automobile lease that you entered into before going on active duty.  The SCRA covers the lease of a motor vehicle used, or intended to be used, by you or your dependents for personal or business transportation. 

Your request to terminate must be in writing and must include a copy of your orders.  After providing your termination, you have 15 days to return the vehicle to your lessor. Although the lessor may not charge you an early termination fee, you may be charged for excess wear, use, and mileage. 50 USC App 3955.

Like the SCRA, Michigan's Military Personnel Motor Vehicle Leasing Act, MCL 445.1011, et seq., permits a service member who is deployed on active duty for a period of 180 days or more, or the spouse of that service member, to terminate any motor vehicle lease. Unlike the SCRA, the Military Personnel Motor Vehicle Leasing Act extends the ability to terminate a lease to servicemembers who are on state active military duty by Order of the Governor.

6% Interest Rate Cap

If your military duty affects your ability to make your credit card, mortgage, or other loan payments, under the SCRA you may have your interest rate capped at 6% for the duration of your military service. This only addresses debts that you incurred individually, or jointly with your spouse, before coming on active duty. 

Although this provisions only applies if the military duty affects your ability to pay your debts, the burden is on the creditor (the entity or person you owe money to) to obtain a court order if the creditor believes that your military duty does not materially affect your ability to make payments.

To qualify for the rate cap, you must provide written notice and a copy of your orders to your creditor within 180 days of your release from military service. Upon receipt of the notice, your creditor must reduce the interest rate to a maximum of 6% effective the first day of your active duty. Your monthly payments must be reduced by the amount saved in interest during the covered period and the amount of interest over 6% is deemed forgiven and cannot later be recovered by the creditor.  50 USC App 3937.

Right to Terminate Cell Phone Contracts

Under the SCRA, if you receive military orders to relocate for at least 90 days to a location that does not support your cell phone service contract, you may terminate that contract at any time without penalty. 50 USC App 3956.

Similarly, State law, MCL 484.1901, et seq., permits you to terminate your contract with your cell phone provider if you are transferred, or deployed overseas, on active duty (by Order of the President, Act of Congress, or Order of the Governor) for a period of 179 days or more, to an area where your existing cell phone provider does not offer service.

You remain responsible for any use charges incurred before termination, but your cell phone provider may not impose an early termination charge.

Protection Against Eviction

If your monthly rent is $3,584.99 (2017 Standard) or less per month, your landlord may not evict you or your dependents from a home that is used primarily as a residence during a period of military duty without a court order. The SCRA specifically states that the amount will increase yearly based on the housing price inflation adjustment, as published in the federal register each January. If an eviction is filed against you or one of your dependents, the court must temporarily stay the proceedings or adjust the amount of your financial obligation if you can show that you have been unable to meet your financial obligations under the lease because of your military service. 50 USC App 3951.

Protection Against Foreclosure

If you obtained a mortgage before going on active military duty, then the SCRA requires your lender to get a court order before it can foreclose on your home during any period of military service and for one year thereafter. If your lender seeks such a court order, and you can show that you have been unable to meet your financial obligation because of your military service, the court must temporarily stay the proceedings or adjust the amount of your obligation to the lender. 50 USC App 3953.

State law, MCL 600.3185 and MCL 600.3285, provides similar protection against foreclosure.

For more information on foreclosure protections, please see the Attorney General's Consumer Alert.

Utility Shut-off Protection

Under State law, MCL 460.9c, you may apply for shut-off protection for electric and gas service by notifying your provider that you are in need of assistance because of a reduction in household income as the result of a call to active military duty.

Additionally, MCL 32.517 provides that you or your immediate household shall not be deprived of or denied heat, water, electricity, or gas service by any public utility serving your home during the first 90 days of military service by reason of unpaid bills for the commodities. This applies if you are on active service in excess of 7 days and when so ordered by the governor in support of civilian authority or in time of war or emergencies of this state or of the United States.

Protection Against Repossessions

The SCRA, 50 USC App 3952, gives you certain protections against repossessions for installment contracts, including automobile leases. If your contract was entered into before going on active duty and at least one payment was made before that time, your creditor cannot repossess your property, while you are on active duty, nor can they terminate the contract for breach, without a court order. 

Your creditor must have a court order to sell, foreclose, or repossess the property. This applies to any action filed during active duty or within nine months after active duty.

Further, Michigan law, MCL 32.517, provides that forfeiture of an executory contract shall not be enforced against you, and seizure or sale of chattels shall not be made against you, during military service nor for 90 days after the termination of the service. This applies if you are on active service in excess of 7 days and when so ordered by the Governor in support of civilian authority or in time of war or emergencies of this state or of the United States. 

Additionally, under Michigan law, MCL 570.521, et seq., if you rent a storage unit and notify the owner of that unit that you are deploying overseas on active duty for 180 days or more, the owner of your storage unit cannot sell or otherwise depose of your stored property until 90 days after the end of your overseas service.

Protection from Wage Garnishment

If you cannot comply with an order garnishing your wages or money in your accounts because of your military duty, then under the SCRA you may request that the court temporarily stop your money from being taken. This right applies only to actions and proceedings that were commenced against you before your period of military duty, during your period of military duty, or within 90 days after your period of military duty ended. 50 USC App 3934.

Stay of Civil Court Proceedings

If you receive notice that a civil action has been filed, or that a child custody proceeding has been initiated, against you during a period of military duty or within 90 days thereafter, you have the right under the SCRA to request that the action or preceding be stayed for a period of at least 90 days. The stay provision applies to state and federal civil courts as well as administrative agencies, such as hearings before Administrative Law judges. You also have the right to request that the court extend such a stay if necessary. If your request for an extension of a stay is denied, then the court must appoint an attorney to represent you in the action or proceeding.

To request a stay under the SCRA, you must send a letter or other communication to the court or administrative agency. The communication must include facts stating the manner in which your military duty materially affects your ability to appear.  It should also state when you will be available to appear. The request should also include a letter or other communication from your commander stating that your current military service prevents appearance and that military leave is not authorized. 50 USC App 3932.

Michigan law, MCL 32.517, provides that suits in the courts of this state including, but not limited to, all intermediate hearings in the suits, pending against you when you enter active service, or commenced at any time during your service, stand adjourned until after the termination of your service. This applies if you are on active service in excess of 7 days and when so ordered by the Governor in support of civilian authority or in time of war or emergencies of this state or of the United States.

Protection from Default Judgment

In certain actions, if a court enters a judgment against you when you fail to appear or defend yourself during a period of military duty or within 60 days thereafter, you have the right under the SCRA to request that the court reopen the judgment to allow you to defend the action. You must apply to reopen the judgment no later than 90 days after release from active duty. The application to vacate the default judgment must show that you were materially affected by reason of that military duty in making a defense to the action; and you have a meritorious or legal defense to the action or some part of it. 50 USC App 3931.

Protection Against Discrimination Based on Exercising Rights Under SCRA

Asserting your rights under the SCRA cannot be a basis for a determination by a creditor that you are unable to pay a financial obligation. A creditor cannot deny you credit, revoke your credit, change the terms of an existing credit arrangement, or refuse to give you credit in the amount or on the terms requested by you because you asserted your rights under the SCRA. Negative information may not be reported to credit bureaus simply because you asserted your rights under the SCRA.  An insurer may not refuse to insure you, or change the terms or conditions of your insurance, because you asserted your rights under the SCRA. 50 USC App 3919.

Information regarding how to obtain free credit reports so you can check the information contained in your credit reports can be found in this Attorney General Consumer Alert.

Reinstatement of Private Health Insurance

Under the SCRA, you are entitled to have your civilian health insurance reinstated when you return to civilian life following periods of active duty. Your insurer cannot require a waiting period nor can the insurer exclude you from coverage based a "condition which arose before or during the period of military service." You must apply no later than 120 days after the date of your termination or release from active duty. 50 USC App 4024. 

Automobile Insurance Protection

Under State law, MCL 500.2116a, an automobile insurer shall not refuse to insure, refuse to continue to insure, limit coverage available to, charge a reinstatement fee for, or increase the premiums for your automobile insurance solely because you failed to maintain insurance for a vehicle you owned during the 6-month period immediately preceding application if you certify on a form provided by the insurer that the lapse in coverage was because you were on active duty in the armed forces of the United States for a least 30 consecutive days and that the vehicle was not driven or moved during the 6-month period immediately preceding application or during the period of time the insurance was not maintained, whichever period is shorter.

Professional Liability Protection

Under the SCRA, if you are engaged in health care or legal services you can have your professional liability insurance suspended during a period of active military duty. Your insurer must reinstate your coverage following release from active duty without any premium increase. 50 USC App 4023.