Armed Forces News

A New Jersey company was fined more than $62,500 for illegally terminating the leases of 13 service members who had lived in its properties. United Communities, LLC, was responsible for managing military housing at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. According to the Justice Department, the company imposed termination charges upon 13 service member families who had exercised their right to end their leases after they received military orders. The action violates the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). The termination fees ranged from $138 to $3,100.
The Justice Department began investigating the company’s activities after receiving a referral from Air Force Community Legal Services.
One service member, Army Capt. Gregory Funk, sought to terminate his lease after he received orders to deploy to Qatar for as long as one year, in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. The company required that Funk repay the $899.20 incentive it had offered him when he signed his lease, because he had not lived in the property for the full 24-month term of the lease.
The fine includes roughly $45,000 in damages to the affected service members, and $17,500 to the U.S. government.
The SCRA protects service members from being evicted, losing security deposits and pre-paid rent, civil proceedings, installment contracts, credit card and mortgage interest rates, foreclosures, automobile leases, life and health insurance and income tax payments. As with this case, it also allows service members to terminate lease agreements should they receive orders to deploy or in the event of a permanent change of station (PCS) move.
Service members who believe they are victims of SCRA violations should contact their military legal assistance office. To find locations, visit http://legalassistance.law.af.mil/content/locator.php on the web.