Servicemembers Civil Relief Act
by Candice Gundel, Esq.
This weekend we will take time to celebrate and remember our veterans and active duty military. These men and women have given their all to our country to protect and preserve our way of life. In their selfless service some military personnel find themselves in conflict with the day to day operations and financial responsibilities of Condominium and Homeowners Associations. Although the Board of Directors is tasked with enforcing the governing documents uniformly there are certain protections extended to active duty military personnel which we should all be aware of.
In order to protect active duty military from being disadvantaged by their service the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act was enacted. The Act was intended to provide the temporary suspension of judicial proceedings that may adversely affect the rights of active duty servicemembers. The Act applies to all judicial actions in any Court in the United States. So how does this affect a Condominium or Homeowners Association?
The Act does not exempt serivemembers from complying with the governing documents of the Association or timely paying assessments during active duty or deployment. If a servicemember has failed to timely pay assessments their property is subject to collection and a Claim of Lien should be filed as with any property owner. In notifying the servicemember of the delinquency the Association and it’s counsel should make every effort to ensure they receive actual notice by utilizing the contact information provided by the servicemember during their deployment. The same is true of a non-collection violation of the governing documents of a community.
The protections provided under the Act are not automatic. A servicemember or Court must invoke the protections, most commonly a temporary stay in the proceedings. This stay may vary in length and may be a 30 day extension to respond or remit payment or continue for the duration of the owner’s active military service and 90 days after the end of active military service. The stay may prevent an Association from imposing fines for a violation of the governing documents or require that fines which were previously imposed during the property owner’s active duty be waived or reduced. The stay will not prevent the filing of a Claim of Lien for non-payment of assessments, however it may prevent an Association from completing a lien foreclosure. The stay may also temporarily prevent the eviction of a servicemember and their family for non-payment of rent.
The Act and the stay were enacted to protect active duty servicemembers from being disadvantaged by their service. However if the property owner’s active duty service does not disadvantage the property owner or prevent their compliance with the governing documents of the Association then the stay may be avoided.
The bottom line, while we advocate uniform enforcement of all provisions of the governing documents of our Association Clients, active duty military personnel are granted certain protections while they serve our country.