In Episode 3, we discusses consumer protection as it relates to housing for our military service members and emotional support animals in housing with Amber Lee, Lending Compliance Program Manager at NCRC. The conversation covers what rights service members have and the discrimination facing this population everyday.
Amber: Veterans face a lot of additional issues. They may be looking for housing as a disabled person but also it is the first time in our country that veterans are facing an issue of being under housed. They are struggling to find affordable housing.
Amber: The CFPB did a survey of service members and they found that generally service members have higher levels of financial well-being. They also found that ⅓ of the service members that they surveyed didn’t have more than one month of emergency savings. 23% had no emergency savings at all and nearly 35% of service members are what we call cost burdened. Which means that they are spending more than 30% of their income on housing and fewer than half of them own their own homes.
Amber: Veterans today are a lot younger, younger people are tending to rent more than they are buying in general. Veterans and service members today are currently the more diverse in history as far as racial and ethnic makeup. A lot of that might mean that they are being shut out of the housing market because of inter-generational poverty, segregated neighborhoods, the things that everyone faces.
Amber: Source of income is different. Some states put it on as you can’t discriminate against someone because they are on public assistance. If they can cover the rent, they can cover the rent. It doesn’t matter where their income is coming from.
Amber: The Military Lending Act doesn’t directly relate to housing in that it covers other types of credit. It caps the interest rate at 36%. Whereas civilians can go to payday lenders and often times those loans will be upward to 400%. If you are a service member and you are covered by the Military Lending Act, no one can give you a loan for higher than 36% interest rate.
Amber: Service members who fall into cycles of debt, often it causes them to lose their security clearance. Thousands of veterans get booted out of the military service every year because of financial distress.
Amber: The Military Lending Act was passed in 2006 after the DOD did a study finding that these predatory lenders were running to the bases to find young, financially distressed kids and suck them into these loans. The CFPB is responsible for enforcing the Military Lending Act. Ideally, they are the ones that should be going out searching for people who are violating these.
Amber: The Federal Trade Commission is doing some stuff. They finalized a regulation that requires nationwide consumer reporting agencies to provide free electronic monitoring for service members. It is the Free Electronic Credit Monitoring for Active Duty Military rule. The official rule will go out later this month. It is attached to the Fair Credit Reporting Act. They’ve also gone after some companies who were trying to allege credit repair schemes.
Amber: The Service Member Civil Relief Act protects existing debt while you are on active duty, period. It doesn’t matter when it originated. It helps protect service members against foreclosures, termination of their lease, evictions due to failure to pay their monthly rent. It protects against wage garnishment if they can’t pay their loans. It also prevents you from having to pay more than 6% interest on your credit obligations that incurred prior to you commencing your military duty service.
Amber: File a complaint with the CFPB. They do make it very easy to file a complaint on their website.
Rose: You can always contact NCRC we’re more than happy to put you in contact with one of our member organizations that does Military Lending Act work and provides resources specific to service members.