Military Families File Class Action Lawsuit Against Landlords at Camp Lejeune
Housing allowances and free housing are one of the perks for military members who must often relocate throughout the country. However, the condition of the military housing is not always the best. When that happens, families must live in subpar housing conditions. The military would be breaching a legal obligation to provide proper housing for families. Now, Marine families at Camp Lejuene in North Carolina are suing the landlords over "disgusting" housing conditions. The lawsuit seeks monetary damages from the landlords but does not sue the government itself. The plaintiffs also are seeking injunctive relief from the courts to clean up the housing situation.
The Lawsuit Alleges that the Landlords Provide Squalid and Dangerous Housing Conditions
The lawsuit was brought by three families who lived on the base. The complaint was that the private landlords who were responsible for the housing on the base acted as slumlords and maximized their own profits at the expense of the tenants who were living in the homes. The landlords were given the tenants' entire base housing allowance each month. Not only did they not hold up their end of the bargain, but they were forced to endure squalid conditions.
The lawsuit was filed as a class action since all the plaintiffs claim that they suffered the same damages from the defendants' behavior. It was filed in federal court in North Carolina.
The complaint checks in at 70 pages and goes into great detail about the housing conditions with which the plaintiffs had to contend. There are allegations that the tenants had to routinely put up with vermin and filth in their homes. Moreover, the tenants claims that they had to content with leaking water near sockets which poses an electrical hazard to anyone near those sockets. Not only does the complaint contain detailed allegations of the nightmarish living conditions, but it also contains numerous pictures of the dangerous and filthy conditions in the plaintiffs' homes.
The plaintiffs claim that, as Marines and family members, they are generally discouraged from complaining. They allege that the landlords knew that and exploited that power. The plaintiffs also state that the landlords were in a superior position and used it to keep the servicemembers and their families in terrible conditions. One of the claims is that the landlord submitted false service and maintenance data to the base.
Many Families at Camp Lejeune Have Reported the Same Exact Issues
While there are three named plaintiffs on the lawsuit, the problems can actually go much deeper. Nearly two-thirds of the tenants at Camp Lejeune over the last four years reported issues with their housing. Repair and maintenance was the most common issue reported, but 20% of the families also reported living in filth. Thus, the universe of class members may be much broader than those already named in the lawsuit.
The federal government relies on private landlords to provide housing on military bases. Managing tenant properties is not the forte of the federal government. As a result, Congress privatized military housing in 1996. While families get the BAH to pay for their housing, they generally do not see the check. Instead, it goes straight to the private landlord. There are thousands of housing units at Camp Lejeune, all privately managed.
Not only are the plaintiffs seeking monetary damage, but they also want the court to order the landlord to clean up the housing and change their actions. The plaintiffs want to be paid for causes of action such as breach of contract and negligence. The lawsuit states that there are still thousands of plaintiffs living on the base in these conditions that continued right up until the time of the filing of the class action. The lawsuit also asks that the court order an accounting of the landlords' property maintenance records under the rental agreements. The plaintiffs want the court to allow an auditor or special master to have the responsibility for this accounting.
The Marine Corps has not commented on the lawsuit since it was not a named party. Servicemembers and their families generally do not have the ability to sue the military in court. However, the hope is that the Marine Corps would be working behind the scenes to ensure that these landlords clean up their properties and engage in better management in the future. Military families certainly deserve better than to live in the squalor that the lawsuit details.
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