Our men and women in uniform deserve the very best of everything. They put everything on the line so we can be free, and we owe them our very lives. In what is being described as a landmark case, two companies that manage military housing have been fined for wrongfully evicting 17 active duty service members from their homes in San Diego and Orange County, California. Federal and state laws bar evictions when service members are on active duty and are unable to appear in court, or if they don’t have an attorney to represent them, as part of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.
According to regulators, San Diego Family Housing and Lincoln Military Property Management did not alert the court of the tenants’ service status, but instead filed false affidavits that said the individuals were not on active duty. To make matters worse, the deplorable companies submitted the documents without redacting private information, such as Social Security numbers, for close to 100 troops and their families.
In a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice, the companies agreed to pay fees and joint penalties in the amount of $260,000 as a result of the wrongful evictions that occurred between 2008 and 2013. Another $252,000 will be paid to the California attorney general’s office for violating federal statutes and California’s code. Attorney General Kamala Harris told the Los Angeles Times, “It is unconscionable that companies would prey upon and illegally evict service members and their families from their homes.”
The companies gave a joint statement on Friday saying, “It is unfortunate that this occurred, but we have taken specific actions to address it. We look forward to continuing to provide excellent housing and healthy communities to the military families who reside in our … housing units in California and across our country who we are honored to serve.”
Brittany Marks, who lives in one of the housing communities that Lincoln Military manages, told the L.A. Times that her husband knows one of the troops that were evicted. “It caused them so much needless stress and embarrassment. They’re really insulted, and I am too, because these are businesses supposedly dedicated to serving our military families. If they don’t know the laws protecting troops or decided to ignore them, that’s beyond forgiveness.”
The money that is to be awarded will be primarily used for victims’ debt relief. They will also receive forgiveness on any rent due and will have any issues with credit bureaus taken care of. Truly, this is the least they can do in such a tragic circumstance.