GI Relief Clarified

This letter is to clarify portions of "WW II Legislation Helps Reduce GIs' Bills" by David W. Myers (Feb. 17), regarding the Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act.

First, the article states that the act protects full-time service members from certain debts incurred prior to "joining up." Not only are pre-enlistment debts protected, but also debts incurred prior to being called to active duty. Thus, a reservist can receive protection for debts incurred after enlistment but prior to the time orders to report to active duty become effective.

Last, the article generally states that a landlord may not evict service members and/or their families for nonpayment of rent. This is incorrect. The act only stays eviction proceedings from leases entered into before entry upon active duty if the dwelling is actually occupied by the service member, military service materially affects his/her ability to pay rent and the rent does not exceed $150 per month.

If the above three elements are met, the eviction can be stayed for a maximum of three months or longer at the discretion of the judge.

The cap on rent makes it realistically nearly impossible for any service member in Southern California to avail himself or herself of this provision. This rent limit was set in 1966 by Congress and has not been amended since.

However, at least one New York court did on one occasion allow for inflation and stayed eviction where the rent was $340 above the cap set by the act. This is not a nationwide precedent, though, and each suit must be argued on a case by case basis.



The writer is a staff attorney with the California Assn. of Realtors.

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