NEWARK – A private company that manages military housing at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst settled allegations that it illegally charged early termination fees to 13 servicemembers, the U.S. Department of Justice’s U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a Sept. 27 statement.
United Communities LLC violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act by charging early termination fees to military personnel who had to terminate their lease agreements because of military orders. Those servicemembers were charged anywhere from $138 to $3,100.
United Communities LLC agreed to pay $62,501.78 to resolve those allegations, the Justice Department said. The LLC must pay $45,001.78 in damages to the 13 servicemembers and a $17,500 civil penalty to the United States.
The United States settled this case and another with Twin Creek, and are the first two SRCA cases the Department has brought involving lease incentives.
In addition to the financial settlement and penalty, United Communities must develop policies and train employees to ensure compliance with the SCRA.
“Members of the Army, Navy, and Air Force at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, and servicemembers nationwide, have the right to terminate their leases without penalty when their military orders send them elsewhere,” Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore said. “We appreciate United Communities’ cooperation with the Department to compensate affected servicemembers. We are resolute in our commitment to vigorously enforce the SCRA on behalf of our men and women in uniform.”
“When the brave men and women of our armed services answer the call of duty, they should be confident that they and their families will receive every protection the SCRA offers,” U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said. “With this settlement agreement, I am proud to continue our robust enforcement of the SCRA in New Jersey.”
Any servicemember or dependent who believes their rights under SRCA have been violated can contact their nearest Armed Forces Legal Assistance Program office, which may be found at legalassistance.law.af.mil/content/locator.php.
They may also file a complaint at justice.gov/usao-nj/civil-rights-enforcement/complaint or 855-281-3339.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael E. Campion, Chief of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Civil Rights Unit, Civil Division; Assistant U.S. Attorney David V. Simunovich, Civil Division; and Trial Attorney Alan Martinson, U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Housing and Civil Enforcement Section.