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The Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act (SCRA) (and previously the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act of 1940) is a Federal Law that protects those persons who serve on active duty for the nation’s defense, from adverse consequences to their legal rights that may result because of such service. Massachusetts has enacted its own state procedure for ensuring compliance with the Federal SCRA.
What is a servicemembers’ case?
The SCRA protects servicemembers from having their homes foreclosed upon while they are on active duty. In order to make sure that a mortgagee (usually a bank or mortgage company) does not foreclose on an active-duty service member, the mortgagee will file a case in the Superior Court Department or the Land Court Department of the Trial Court for a determination as to whether anybody with an ownership interest in the property is entitled to benefits under the SCRA. These cases are known informally as “servicemembers’ cases.”
Is a mortgagee required to file a servicemembers’ case in court as part of the foreclosure process?
No. A servicemembers’ case is separate from foreclosure. In fact, the failure to obtain a judgment in a servicemembers’ case does not make a foreclosure invalid.
What should I do if I've been notified that I am 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 commenced against you, you should file a timely answer with the court to claim protections under the SCRA. If you are not claiming protections under the SCRA, you should not file an answer in a servicemembers’ case.
The Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services provides resources for veterans. See their Welcome Home Guide for more information. The Department of Veterans’ Services may be contacted at:
Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Department of Veterans' Services
600 Washington St., 7th Floor
Boston, MA 02111
fax: (617) 210-5755
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.”
I am not an active servicemember and am therefore not entitled to benefits under the SCRA, where can I find mortgage foreclosure information and assistance?
The Massachusetts Attorney General’s website offers information and assistance related to mortgage foreclosure at: The Attorney General's HomeCorps