Thursday, June 11, 2009

Law Gives Military Renters More Protection Against Foreclosures

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 11, 2009 - President Barack Obama's latest efforts to look after home renters gives military members additional protection if the homes they rent are foreclosed, a Defense Department official said today.

The president's Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2009 was signed into law on May 20. The legislation ensures that renters aren't forced out of their homes if foreclosure occurs and a new landlord takes over.

Renters in every state now have more time to find new homes. The new law greatly benefits the military, as the vast majority of active duty servicemembers rent homes throughout the United States, said Army Col. Shawn Shumake, director of legal policy in the Pentagon's personnel and readiness office.

While about 65 percent of the U.S. population own their homes, only about 25 percent of servicemembers are homeowners, so, foreclosure of rented homes potentially can affect most of the military, Shumake said.

"We've got a lot of folks out there that find that they are in really difficult positions, because their landlords are foreclosed on," he explained in a Pentagon Channel interview. "This law provides them a measure of security and protection they didn't previously have."

The legislation gives renters the right to stay in their homes throughout the duration of their lease, he said, unless the new owner is moving into the home or if the renter is renting under a month-to-month lease. Still, the new law gives renters at least 90 days before they can be evicted, he noted.

"This act is a protection that's really powerful and important, and a great help to our servicemembers," the colonel said. "This provides renters some particular [and] some important rights so they're not kicked out on the street with no notice."

Before the law went into effect, only individual state protection was available, or none at all, Shumake said. There was no consistency from state to state in the rights people had to fight immediate eviction after foreclosure.

The inconsistency may have been difficult on military members, many of whom are transferred from one state to another every two to three years. The federal law now provides a baseline of protection for all renters, no matter where they live in the United States, he said.

"There was no uniformity or anything you could count on," Shumake said. "[The law] now makes things the same across the country, and it at least gives you some basics that you know are there. At the very least, you know you're going to get that 90 days of protection."

The act is one of several laws that ensure military members are taken care of as they move from state to state to new duty stations, Shumake said. He noted the Joint Federal Travel Regulation, which defines financial benefits awarded to servicemembers upon changing duty stations.

The regulation was amended in July because of the rising foreclosure rates to allow the federal government to financially support local moves by military members. So, if one of the two exceptions occurs and servicemembers are forced to move from their home, the government may pay for the move, he said.

The regulation and Obama's new legislation go "hand in glove," Shumake said.

Military members faced with such uncertainty are in the best possible position with the two protections, he said.

For more information, servicemembers should contact their local legal office.

Related Sites: Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness

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