California law strengthens protections for service members

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California Governor Jerry Brown has 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 member’s 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

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

Under the 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 services member or otherwise binding the service member.

Stays of proceedings

Under 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, if the service member’s military service materially affects his or her ability to participate in the court proceeding.

Under the improved law:  Extends this protections 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

Under 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.

Under the 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 do not consist of a student loan, mortgage, trust deed, or other mortgage-type security, to 120 days after military service.

Responses to service members request for protection

Under current law: service members may request to terminate a lease in any case in which the lease was executed prior to the Service member entering military service.

Under the 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, 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.

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 760-38-5321. Hours of operation are 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday-Friday, closed 9 a.m.-noon on Thursdays.