We owe it to our service men and women to provide them with quality housing. Yet so many do not. Soldiers report a range of issues, including lead-based pain, structural defects, rodent and insect infestations, faulty installation, water leaks and excessive moisture, and persistent mold problems.
Furthermore, these homes far too often suffer from unacceptable deviations from applicable building and housing codes, including structurally deficient flooring and walls, faulty insulation, extensive mold and other toxins, hazardous asbestos and lead-based paint, deficient electrical, plumbing, and HVAC systems, and numerous other inadequacies.
Who Provides Military Housing?
Who provides military housing? Private housing companies that are responsible for managing, leasing, and maintaining these homes for service members. Filing a military housing lawsuit holds these sometimes awful companies accountable.
How Military Housing Works
In 1996, the Military Housing Privatization Initiative (MHPI) was established by Congress through the 1996 Defense Authorization Act, aiming to enhance the living conditions of active-duty military personnel and their families. This initiative granted the military services the ability to leverage government resources and private investment for the construction, renovation, and management of military housing. It provided a means to make the most of limited government funds, land, and facilities to improve the quality of life for U.S. servicemembers.
Under the MHPI, the Department of Defense (DOD) had access to twelve alternative tools or authorities, including direct loans, loan guarantees, differential payments to supplement housing allowances, various investment methods, and the conveyance or lease of military housing units to contractors. These efforts were intended to stimulate private sector financing for military housing projects.
Approximately 80 privatized areas, comprising over 204,000 housing units on more than 150 installations, were created as a result of MHPI. Servicemembers leasing housing on military bases were obligated to pay the full amount of their Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) to the privatized housing company, regardless of the property’s size or condition. Previously, housing was provided instead of BAH, but this change ensured a continuous revenue stream for management contracts, requiring minimal additional government funding.
Privatization Has Not Worked
However, despite privatization’s intent to protect military personnel and their families, problems persisted within military housing. There have been too many cases where dazardous conditions were known to both the military and the private contractor, and the lack of servicemembers’ control over their BAH payments left them with limited recourse when faced with unacceptable housing.
This power imbalance was further compounded by the private companies’ direct communication channels with the military, leading to concerns of reprisals against servicemembers who reported housing problems.
Military Housing Lawsuits
Military housing lawsuits allege that instead of delivering satisfactory housing, these landlords conceal substandard housing conditions from unsuspecting military personnel and their families for many years.
So what we end up with is brave service members surrendering their entire BAH only to find themselves residing in homes with deplorable living conditions. These conditions include leaking pipes, sewage seepage, excessive moisture, severe rodent and insect infestations, as well as widespread maintenance issues and structural defects.
Where to File a Military Housing Lawsuit?
Military community lawsuits are using filed in federal court. Parts of military installations can fall within the category of federal enclaves where the United States government holds a degree of federal legislative jurisdiction. There is Constitutional support for this argument (Article I, Section 8, Clause 17).
States maintain concurrent jurisdiction over military installations, federal courts have subject-matter jurisdiction over disputes arising within federal enclaves. To determine whether a claim originates within a federal enclave, courts typically consider the location of “pertinent events.” In military community housing lawsuits, it is evident in most case that their occupancy of housing properties under the control of these contracting companies are within the boundaries of a military installation.
States Also Have Jurisdiction
You can also file a deficient military housing suit in state court as the U.S. Supreme Court told us in 2022. In this case, our high court declined a petition by military housing contractors seeking to have residents’ claims of unsafe conditions moved to federal court.
Military families in this lawsuit accused companies in Hawaii of failing to notify them of pesticide contamination and remediation efforts on Marine Corps Base Hawaii, where they reside as part of a military housing privatization program.
The Ninth Circuit ruled that state law retained jurisdiction over the case, as federal law had not been assimilated into it, and the Marine Corps base was not designated a “critical area” by the federal government, creating concurrent state jurisdiction.
Example Military Housing Lawsuits
Here are four examples of military housing lawsuits:
In a recent federal court case in San Antonio, Texas, a military housing company, Hunt Military Communities, was found to have failed in maintaining and repairing a rented home. The court ordered the company to pay over $91,000 in damages. The lawsuit focused on issues in the home, including mold, structural problems, water leaks, broken fixtures, ant infestations, and unpleasant odors at Joint Base San Antonio.
While the lawsuit did not address potential health concerns related to mold exposure, it centered on whether Hunt Military Communities had breached its contract to address and repair reported problems in the home. This case was part of a group of similar lawsuits filed by military families against Hunt, with each family’s case considered separately in court.
After a three-week trial, the jury awarded damages of $91,654 to the affected family. The family’s lawyers had initially requested $96,813, but the jury determined that Hunt had taken steps to resolve the issues during the final four months of the family’s occupancy, leading to no damages for rent paid during that time. Hunt Military Communities responded to the verdict, expressing its commitment to providing quality housing to military families and considering potential legal options, including a possible appeal. Throughout the legal process, the affected family remained determined in their pursuit of justice and change for other military families facing similar housing-related challenges.
Sheppard Air Force Base, Fort Bliss, Texas
A group of military members and their families have filed a lawsuit in Texas federal court against private landlords operating at Sheppard Air Force Base, Fort Bliss, and Lackland Air Force Base.
The suits allege that these companies have been acting like slumlords, providing housing plagued by issues such as rat and insect infestations, leaking sewage, mold, asbestos contamination, and other problems. The plaintiffs argue that these housing conditions have persisted for years, despite congressional inquiries and media reports, due to the imbalance of power, with the Department of Defense directly collecting their rent. This is particularly maddening because it creates the appearance that the military and the landlord is one and the same. In this case, the service members claim that the landlords have a direct line of communication with the military, discouraging complaints from service members about housing conditions.
The lawsuit names several defendants operating under the Military Housing Privatization Initiative, authorized by the 1996 Defense Authorization Act to improve housing conditions for active-duty military personnel. The plaintiffs seek unspecified damages and other relief for various causes of action, including breach of contract, breaches of warranties, violations of the Texas Property Code, and more. Two individuals connected to one of the defendants plead guilty to defrauding the U.S. government through privatized military housing contracts between approximately 2013 and 2016. This tells you a lot.
Joint Base San Antonio in Texas
A military housing company, Hunt Military Communities, was found to have failed in maintaining and repairing a rented home. The court ordered the company to pay over $91,000 in damages. The lawsuit focused on issues in the home, including water leaks, structural problems, broken fixtures, ant infestations, unpleasant odors, and mold at Joint Base San Antonio.
The lawsuit did not address potential health concerns related to mold exposure – the injuries themselves can be difficult to prove in many of those lawsuits. Instead it drilled down on whether Hunt Military Communities had breached its contract to address and repair reported problems in the home. This case was part of a group of similar lawsuits filed by military families against Hunt. So it is a class action lawsuit in one sense but each individual lawsuit gets it own trial.
After a three-week trial, the jury awarded damages of $91,654 to the affected family, just a few thousand dollars less than their military housing lawyer sought from the jury.
Fort Belvoir Army Base in Virginia
Upon arriving at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, with her husband, a U.S. Army officer had high hopes for the house they rented from The Michaels Organization, a private military housing contractor on the 8,700-acre Army base. She expected a safe and up-to-date residence for her family.
However, the reality was quite different. When they moved into the property, they discovered an infestation of carpenter ants, which had entered the house from various points. Slugs began appearing under the kitchen sink, and the supposedly new carpet turned out to be riddled with thumbtacks, rusty nails, and even remnants of ramen noodles.
Fort Meade Army Base in Maryland
This suit, initially filed by military families from Fort Meade in November 2019, alleged that military housing contractor Corvias provided substandard and moldy housing to families at the military base. Their mold lawsuit Corvias of neglecting maintenance of their on-base housing units, particularly concerning persistent mold problems. They claimed that repairmen would merely remove visible mold without addressing underlying moisture issues, leading to respiratory and health problems among residents.
Covias own inspection revealed that the attic exhibited signs of significant deterioration, with insulation that was rotting and contaminated with mold. The roof beams showed damage from water exposure, indicating potential structural issues. Furthermore, the HVAC vents located in the attic were found to be covered in sporadic black mold growth, raising grave concerns about air quality and potential health hazards associated with mold exposure.
A Maryland federal judge approved a settlement that concludes a proposed class action lawsuit against military housing contractor Corvias. The terms of the settlement remain confidential.
Hiring a Military Housing Lawyer
If you are in substandard military housing, contact us today for a free consultation and let’s see if we can help you get the justice you deserve