Justice Department Settles Landlord-Tenant Case Under Servicemembers Civil Relief Act
WASHINGTON – The Justice Department today announced that it had reached a settlement resolving allegations that Empirian Property Management Inc. refused to terminate residential leases entered into by active duty members of the U.S. Air Force assigned to Offutt Air Force Base in Sarpy County, Neb., after those servicemembers received permanent change of station orders. The lawsuit alleged that Empirian, a Delaware corporation that manages over 30 apartment complexes nationwide, violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) by refusing to allow the servicemembers to terminate their leases early in order to comply with their military orders.
The SCRA provides certain protections to active duty servicemembers who must terminate residential leases to comply with military orders for a permanent change of station or for deployment. The complaint, which was filed with the settlement, demonstrates the Justice Department’s ongoing commitment to enforcing the rights of our nation’s servicemembers. Under the terms of the settlement, which must be approved by a federal court in Nebraska, Empirian must pay a total of $12,500 in damages to four identified servicemembers, and up to $20,000 to compensate any additional servicemembers harmed by Empirian’s actions. Empirian is also prohibited from engaging in future violations of the SCRA.
“Our men and women in uniform make great sacrifices in order to protect our nation,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “When servicemembers move as a result of military orders, the law protects them from financial hardship. The Civil Rights Division is strongly committed to protecting the rights of servicemembers through our enforcement of the SCRA.”
U.S. Attorney for the District of Nebraska, Deborah R. Gilg, said, “This settlement sends a strong message that the rights of our service personnel will be protected. No service man or woman engaged in protecting all of us from harm should suffer financial damage from landlords who seek to thwart the protection our laws afford our service personnel.”
The Justice Department’s investigation of this matter originated with a referral to the Civil Rights Division from the Offutt Air Force Base Law Center. Servicemembers who believe that their SCRA rights 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. Additional information about the Justice Department’s enforcement of the SCRA and other laws protecting servicemembers is available at www.servicemembers.gov.