The Biggest Untold Mortgage Crisis: Help for Families Facing Military Foreclosures

American Chronicle

October 8, 2008 – Please send a message to Mr. Schieffer today. More and more military families are finding themselves in the middle of a mortgage nightmare. Soldiers are returning after several tours of duty, only to find they are on the verge of losing their homes. While trying to rebuild their lives, they face the additional pressure and stress of a looming foreclosure.

According to one recent study, the number of foreclosures in military towns are four times the national average. Why? Because military families were targeted as customers during the boom in subprime lending. Their frequent moves, overseas stints, and low pay meant they were likely to have weak credit ratings. The initial low rates and easy terms of these loans made them more attractive than the traditional route of taking out a Veterans Administration (VA) loan. In fact, at the peak of the U.S. subprime lending, the number of new VA loans fell to their lowest level in 12 years.

With that in mind, it is not surprising that a large number of military families are being caught in the subprime mortgage collapse, many of which are independant small-business owners. Fortunately, there is some help in the form of the Servicemembers´ Civil Relief Act (SCRA). The SCRA was created to protect soldiers and sailors from losing their homes for nonpayment of mortgages while they are on active duty and for 90 days after they return home.

Those who qualify for the SCRA include members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corp and Coast Guard. Also included are members of the public health service, commissioned corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Guard members who were called to active service during a national emergency and authorized by the President or Secretary of Defense for more than 30 consecutive days. In addition, citizens ordered to report for induction under the Military Service Act, and those serving with the Allied Forces are also covered under the bill.

If you are covered under the SCRA, a court ruling must be made before a foreclosure sale or seizure can occur to your property. Military personnel can ask for a court delay and be issued a 90-day adjournment. If the court denies the delay request, an attorney must be appointed to represent the service member in absentia.

If the lender forecloses without a court order, the sale is invalid. If a foreclosure sale was conducted lawfully, there is still some recourse. Foreclosed property cannot be seized until the service member completes active duty. In addition, the SCRA grants military personnel the right to revisit a default foreclosure judgment that was issued during active duty and also gives them the right to ask that it be overturned.

For veterans facing foreclosure, it is critical they understand the process and take action. There are two types of foreclosures – judicial and non-judicial. Judicial procedures are followed by states that use mortgages as the security instrument for property loans. Non-judicial procedures are used by states that use deeds of trust as the security instrument. For veterans who live in non-judicial foreclosure jurisdictions, lenders can foreclose on a property very quickly and without court proceedings.

For questions about the SCRA contact the Judge Advocate General´s office at your local military base or the local Veterans Administration regional office.

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