A Servicemembers case is a type of court case brought by a bank or other mortgage holder against a property owner who has defaulted on their mortgage. A Servicemembers case is not a foreclosure. Mortgage foreclosures in Massachusetts generally are not conducted by courts. Before going ahead with a mortgage foreclosure, a mortgage holder can bring a Servicemembers case. It is brought to determine one thing: if the property owner is entitled to protections the law gives to certain members of the military and their dependents.
In a Servicemembers case, the mortgage holder (plaintiff) asks the court to determine whether anyone with an ownership interest in the property (defendant) is entitled to the protections of the federal law known as the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) (previously known as the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act of 1940). The SCRA is a federal law that in some cases protects people who serve on active duty for the nation’s defense from negative effects on their legal rights because of this service. The SCRA includes protections related to home mortgage foreclosures. Massachusetts has enacted its own state procedure so a court can determine whether or not a defendant is entitled to SCRA protections. In this way, lenders can make sure they comply with the federal SCRA before starting a mortgage foreclosure. A mortgagee (usually a bank or mortgage company) wishing to be sure it will not violate the protections for an eligible servicemember, may file a Servicemembers case in the Land Court or the Superior Court and ask that court to determine whether anyone with an ownership interest in the property is entitled to benefits under the SCRA.