Justice Department Reaches Settlement with Nebraska Landlord for Charging Unlawful Lease Termination Fees to U.S. Servicemembers
The Justice Department today announced that Twin Creek Apartments, LLC (Twin Creek), owner of an apartment complex in Bellevue, Nebraska, adjacent to the Offutt Air Force Base, has agreed to a settlement to resolve allegations that it violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) by imposing lease termination charges against 65 servicemembers who had exercised their federal right to terminate their residential leases. The charges ranged from $72 to $1,498 per servicemember. The Department initiated an investigation into the practices of Twin Creek after receiving a referral from a U.S. Air Force Community Legal Services office.
The SCRA provides certain protections to servicemembers who must terminate their residential leases in order to comply with military orders for a permanent change of station, deployment, or retirement. Under the terms of the settlement, Twin Creek must pay a total of $76,516 in damages to the 65 identified servicemembers. Under the agreement, Twin Creek will also pay a civil penalty of $20,000 to the United States. The settlement also prohibits Twin Creek from engaging in future violations of the SCRA.
“The SCRA prohibits landlords from charging members of our armed forces an extra fee when they move due to military orders,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore. “We appreciate Twin Creek’s cooperation with the Department to reach a settlement. The Justice Department continues to ensure that we are doing all we can to protect the rights of servicemembers, veterans, and their families.”
“This is a just resolution for the former tenants and demonstrates our continuing commitment to protecting our servicemembers,” said Joe Kelly, U.S. Attorney for the District of Nebraska.
The Department’s enforcement of the SCRA is conducted by the Civil Rights Division’s Housing and Civil Enforcement Section and United States Attorney’s Offices. Since 2011, the Department has obtained over $467 million in monetary relief for servicemembers through its enforcement of the SCRA. The SCRA provides protections for servicemembers in areas such as evictions, rental agreements, security deposits, prepaid rent, civil judicial proceedings, installment contracts, credit card interest rates, mortgage interest rates, mortgage foreclosures, automobile leases, life insurance, health insurance and income tax payments. For more information about the Department’s SCRA enforcement, please visit www.servicemembers.gov.
Servicemembers and their dependents who believe that their rights under the SCRA have been violated should contact the nearest Armed Forces Legal Assistance Program Office. Office locations may be found at http://legalassistance.law.af.mil/content/locator.php.