South Carolina Enacts Servicemembers Civil Relief Act    

On April 26, 2019, the Governor of South Carolina signed House Bill 3180 to enact the South Carolina Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. The Act took effect on April 26, 2019 and its provisions are applicable to contracts entered into, extended, or amended on or after July 1, 2019. The Act is intended to expand and supplement the protections of the federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. The definition of “military service” will affect South Carolina National Guardsmen who are on active duty for a period of more than thirty days. The new Act also provides that the dependent of a servicemember engaged in military service has the same rights and protections afforded a servicemember under the Act and under the federal SCRA.

Specifically, the Act includes protections for South Carolina National Guardsmen under a call to active:

  • service authorized by the President of the United States or the Secretary of Defense for a period of more than thirty days in response to a national emergency declared by the President of the United States; or
  • duty authorized pursuant to Article 15 for a period of more than thirty consecutive days.

It is important to note that, in general, the federal SCRA applies to National Guard members on title 32 duty only under limited and unusual circumstances. Those circumstances; however, happen to mirror those outlined above in the South Carolina version of the SCRA. So, the new statute actually does not provide any additional “call to duty” coverage for active duty status National Guard members other than that already provided for under the federal statute.   
The Act does provide some other protections to servicemembers, including the right to terminate certain kinds of contracts after receiving “call up” orders to relocate for a period of service for at least ninety days to an area that does not support the services provided under the contract.  Specifically listed in the statute are contracts for: telecommunication services, internet services, television services, gym memberships and satellite radio services. Unlike some provisions of the federal SCRA, the South Carolina version requires the servicemember to provide written notice of the termination of the contract to the service provider along with a copy of the orders requiring the servicemember to relocate.

The South Carolina SCRA allows the servicemember, a dependent, or the South Carolina Attorney General to bring a civil action against a person who intentionally violates a provision of the act and authorizes penalties that include injunctions, restitution and a civil penalty not to exceed five thousand dollars.   Fifty percent of the civil penalties imposed would be remitted to the South Carolina general fund, and the balance may be retained by the Office of the South Carolina Attorney General to support enforcement or public education efforts related to the purpose of the new statute.           

Published by John S. Kay on June 3, 2019.