On March 21, the U.S. House of Representatives passed S.B. 2393, which extends through 2017 the provision of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act’s (SCRA) that protects servicemembers against foreclosure without a court order or waiver for one year following completion of their service. On January 1, 2016, the foreclosure protection provision reverted back to the period of active duty military service plus 90 days, rather than the period of active duty military service plus one year. Upon the President’s signature, the SCRA’s protection against foreclosure without a court order or waiver will return to the period of active duty military service plus one year through December 31, 2017.
On March 22, the CFPB released its fourth annual report highlighting complaints the agency received in 2015 from servicemembers, veterans, and their families. According to the report, debt collection complaints continue to be the most common. The report states that, between January 1, 2015 and December 31, 2015, the CFPB received more than 19,000 complaints from the military community, 46% of which related to the debt collection industry. Complaints related to mortgages and credit reporting follow at 15% and 11%, respectively. The report also summarizes four public enforcement actions in 2015, noting that the actions provided servicemembers with more than $5 million in refunds and other relief.
On December 22, New York AG Schneiderman announced that more than 3,000 consumers received partial compensation from funds stemming from a global settlement negotiated by AG Schneiderman and the CFPB. In July 2014, the CFPB and 13 state AGs announced a consent order with a military consumer lender requiring it to provide $92 million in debt relief to approximately 17,000 U.S. servicemembers and other consumers affected by the company’s alleged predatory lending scheme. At the time of the order, the company was in Chapter 7 bankruptcy and the redress requirement was suspended until it complied with the debt-relief provisions of the consent order. The recent redress payment exceeds $3.7 million and was issued to 82 victims in New York.
FTC Signs Memorandum of Agreement to Prevent Fraudulent and Deceptive Practices Against Servicemembers
On November 12, the FTC announced that it signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the Veterans Administration (VA) to provide mutual assistance in preventing fraudulent and deceptive acts by “institutions of higher learning and other establishments that offer training” targeting U.S. servicemembers, veterans, and dependents using military education benefits. In its press release, the FTC warned servicemembers of for-profit schools that may make unrealistic promises and pressure them to enroll in unnecessary courses or take out loans they may not be able to pay off.
Rhode Island Modifies its Fair Housing Practices Act to Include Military Status Under Discrimination Protections
On July 9, Governor Raimondo signed S.0241, which amends the Rhode Island Fair Housing Practices Act to include discrimination based on a person’s military status as a prohibited and unlawful housing and credit granting practice. Protected classes now include veterans with an honorable discharge (or an honorable or general administrative discharge), and active servicemembers in the Armed Forces. The amendments are effective immediately.