Learn about the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)

Find frequently asked questions, answers, and other resources about the SCRA.

Table of Contents

Overview

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) (previously the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act of 1940) is a federal law that protects people who serve on active duty for the nation’s defense from negative effects on their legal rights because of this service. Massachusetts has enacted its own state procedure for making sure parties comply with the federal SCRA before starting a mortgage foreclosure.

Servicemembers case

What is a servicemembers case?

The SCRA offers some protections for servicemembers with regards to home foreclosures while they’re on active duty. In order to make sure that a mortgagee (usually a bank or mortgage company) doesn’t violate the protections for an active-duty service member, the mortgagee will file a case in the Superior Court or the Land Court of the Trial Court to determine whether anyone with an ownership interest in the property is entitled to benefits under the SCRA. These cases are known informally as “servicemembers cases.”

Does a mortgagee have to file a servicemembers case in court as part of the foreclosure process?

No. A servicemembers case is separate from foreclosure. In fact, not getting a judgment in a servicemembers case doesn’t make a foreclosure invalid.

What should I do if I've been notified that I’m a defendant in a servicemembers action and I think I may be entitled to the benefits of SCRA?

If you think you may be entitled to benefits under the SCRA, and have been notified that a servicemembers’ case has been started against you, you should file a timely answer with the court to claim protections under the SCRA. If you aren’t claiming protections under the SCRA, you shouldn’t file an answer in a servicemembers’ case.

If no answer or appearance has been filed, the Motion for Judgment will be allowed as of the day after the return day, unless the motion is filed after the return date. Allowing the motion shows that the court has determined, as of that date, that none of the named defendants are entitled to the benefits of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. The judgment date will be the date the judgment is actually entered on the docket, and not necessarily the date when the Motion for Judgment is allowed.

The Land Court doesn’t accept any Servicemembers Civil Relief Act cases not accompanied by the Mortgagee's Affidavit Under Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 244 Section 35A, as amended by St. 2010, Chapter 258, Section 7 for filing.

The Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services provides resources for veterans. You can contact the Department of Veterans’ Services at:

Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Department of Veterans' Services
600 Washington St., 7th Floor
Boston, MA 02111
(617) 210-5480
fax: (617) 210-5755
MDVS@vet.state.ma.us

Filing a servicemembers action

Who is entitled to file a servicemembers action?

According to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, only “mortgagees or those acting on behalf of mortgagees have standing to bring servicemember proceedings.”

Mortgage foreclosure information and help

I’m not an active servicemember and am not entitled to benefits under the SCRA; where can I find mortgage foreclosure information and help?

The Massachusetts Attorney General’s website has information and assistance related to mortgage foreclosure at Mortgage Lending and Foreclosures.

 

Last updated: September 3, 2019
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