December 7, 2018

California law strengthens protections for service members

Jessaka Menzie
Attorney-at-Law Legal Assistance Office

On Sept. 19, 2018, California Governor Jerry Brown, signed Assembly Bill No. 3212, a measure that will strengthen California’s existing consumer protections for military families, including California National Guard Soldiers and Airmen, under the California Military and Veterans Code.  Specifically, the law extends the length of time that service members are protected against foreclosures, evictions, repossessions and default judgments.  It also extends interest rate protections on student loans and clarifies that students serving in the National Guard and Reserve have a right to academic leave when they are called to active duty.  A few of the strengthened provisions are highlighted below:

Default Judgments

     Current law:  Before a default judgment is entered against a defendant, a plaintiff is required to file a court document that demonstrates that the defendant is not in military service.  If there is a finding of military service, the court must appoint an attorney to represent the defendant and protect the service member’s interests.

     Improved law:  If an attorney is appointed, and the service member cannot be located, the appointed attorney is prohibited from waiving any defense of the service member or otherwise binding the service member.

Stays of Proceedings

     Current law:  At the request of a service member, a court may postpone a civil proceeding during the period of military service, or 60 days after military service, if the service member’s military service materially affects his or her ability to participate in the court proceeding.

     Improved law:  Protections are extended to 120 days after military service.  The service member may also request an additional postponement of the civil proceeding, if there is a continuing inability to participate due to military service.  If the court refuses to approve the additional postponement, the court will appoint an attorney to represent the service member in the civil proceeding.

Student Loan Protections

     Current law:  Loans incurred before military service are capped at a 6 percent interest rate, per year, during military service.  Mortgages, trust deeds, or other mortgage-type securities are capped at 6 percent during military service and for one year after military service.

     Improved law:  Extends the 6 percent interest rate cap on student loans to one year after military service. Also extends the 6 percent cap on obligations that are not a student loan, mortgage, trust deed, or other mortgage-type security, to 120 days after military service.

Responses to service member Requests for Protections

     Current law:  service members may request to terminate a lease that was executed prior to the Servicemember entering military service.

     Improved law:  For any person who receives a good faith request from a service member for any protections described, and who believes the service member is not entitled to the protection, that person must provide the service member a written response within 30 days of the service member’s request.  Failure to provide the service member with a written response within the specified timeframe, waives any objection to the service member’s request and the service member will be entitled to the relief requested.

Collection of Debts

     Improved law:  Prohibits a debt collector from contacting a service member’s military unit or chain of command, without written consent from the service member.  The service member’s consent must be given after the debt is due.

     If you have any questions regarding your rights under the service members Civil Relief Act (SCRA) or the California Military and Veterans Code, please visit the Fort Irwin Legal Assistance Office at Bldg.230 or call 760-380-5321.  Hours of Operation are 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday-Friday, closed Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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