The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released guidance Thursday on how mortgage servicers should deal with military members who are struggling under the weight of a move and mortgage debt.

Members of the military are routinely issued new PCS orders, which prompt them to uproot their residences and pick up at a new military base. In a down market where homes are hard to sell, the financial hardship of carrying a mortgage after a move can be difficult.

The CFPB told mortgage firms this week that there is a definite protocol to follow when advising members of the military on how to deal with change of station orders.

CFPB, along with the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and other prudential regulators released a list of best practices that mortgage servicers are to follow when dealing with homeowners in the military. The guidance was designed to ensure firms do not violate consumer protection laws when dealing with distressed homeowners who are in the military.

The guidance stipulates that servicers need to provide service members with PCS orders with clear and understandable information on their assistance options while also informing the homeowner of any aid they may qualify for. The guidance also addresses negative practices such as asking servicemembers to waive their rights under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act before providing them with information or evaluating their eligibility for assistance. The CFPB guidance also warns servicers not to advise service members who are current on their loans to skip payments to create a situation where they appear distressed enough to qualify for certain programs.

"Those who serve our country deserve to be given the best service by their mortgage servicer," said CFPB director Richard Cordray. "Permanent Change of Station orders can complicate a servicemember’s homeownership decisions in ways that civilians may not experience. This guidance provides specific notice to mortgage servicers that this country already has substantial laws in place to help military members in this still-recovering housing market." 

Click here to read the full guidance report.