News and Press Releases

Landlord Ordered to Pay Back Servicemember for Illegally Penalizing Him for Moving to New Post

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 5, 2013

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A federal judge has ordered the landlord of a rental property in Manassas, Va., to return money owed a servicemember after he was penalized for breaking the rental lease because the military ordered him to move.

            Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, made the announcement after a memorandum opinion was issued by United States District Judge Claude M. Hilton.

“Our military men and women put their lives on the line for us, and we must protect them both overseas and here at home,” said U.S. Attorney MacBride.

“Service members should never be penalized financially for their commitment to serve and protect our country,” said Assistant Attorney General Perez. “The Department of Justice will continue to use tools like the Servicemember Civil Relief Act to protect the rights of service members.”

            According to court records, Occoquan Forest Drive LLC and its registered agent, John Williams, of Alexandria, Va., leased a residential property in Manassas, Va., to a servicemember tenant and his wife. After receiving permanent change of station orders to move to Nevada, the tenants properly terminated the lease pursuant to the Servicemember Civil Relief Act (SCRA), which protects the rights of servicemembers while on active duty in the military by suspending or modifying certain civil obligations.

            The United States brought suit against Occoquan and Williams under the SCRA for refusing to return the tenants’ security deposit and charging early termination fees.  In a memorandum opinion issued on Feb. 15, 2013, Judge Hilton found both Occoquan and Williams liable under the statute, ordered them to return the tenants’ security deposit, and enjoined them from imposing early termination charges.

            This case was investigated by the Pentagon Army and Air Force Legal Assistance Office and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, Housing and Civil Enforcement Section.  Assistant United States Attorney Stephen J. Obermeier litigated the case on behalf of the United States.  The case name is United States v. Williams, 1:12cv551.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia at http://www.justice.gov/usao/vae.  Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia at http://www.vaed.uscourts.gov or on https://pcl.uscourts.gov.

 

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