The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and Department of Justice (DOJ) issued joint letters, restating the federal housing protections afforded to military servicemembers during the COVID-19 pandemic. While some protections have been in place for decades, others reflect pandemic-era relief from landlords and mortgage companies alike.
One of the letters addresses the handling of servicemembers’ and veterans’ loan accounts after entering a COVID-19 hardship forbearance. CFPB received several complaints, stating that mortgage servicers are (1) reporting accounts to credit reporting agencies as delinquent despite the forbearance, (2) sending incorrect or confusing communications, and (3) improperly requiring lump sum payments for reinstatement. The letter highlights various mortgage and foreclosure protections afforded to servicemembers, including the right to forbearance for up to 180 days pursuant to the CARES Act and Regulation X’s temporary procedures, allowing borrowers to be reviewed for loss mitigation before the start of foreclosure proceedings. The letter further reminds mortgage servicers that under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), a creditor must obtain a court order prior to foreclosing on a mortgage.
The second letter reminds landlords that under the SCRA, the military community is entitled to early lease termination upon receipt of new orders and eviction protections, including a requirement that landlords must obtain a court order prior to eviction. The letter further explains that Congress recently expanded lease protections under the SCRA to include a servicemember’s “stop movement order” related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This change permits servicemembers to terminate their leases not only when they are ordered to relocate, but also when they are instructed to remain in place.