Far too many of our men and women in uniform are finding themselves living in base housing that is in sub-standard condition. Not only are these servicemembers and their families dealing with houses that are in disrepair, but they are living with rodents, black mold, and peeling lead paint. If you are in this situation, you may have been told that as a member of the military, you can’t sue the military. However, on most military bases, including Camp Pendleton, housing is owned and managed by outside contractors, not the military. These landlords are subject to the same laws as any other property owner and, therefore, can be sued when they violate your rights.
State Tenants’ Rights Laws
Every state has tenants’ rights laws, and they all protect renters in pretty much the same way. The part of the law that applies in this situation is the right to a habitable residence. This means that the landlord is required to do whatever it takes to maintain your property in a safe and livable condition. If your house on Camp Pendleton has dangerous black mold in the vents, for example, your landlord—in this case, Lincoln Military Housing—must take measures to remove the mold. Simply cleaning and painting over it is not the same as mold remediation. If you have informed your landlord of the problem and given them adequate time to take care of it, you have the right to sue them if they fail to make your house habitable.
Constructive Eviction Under SCRA
As a servicemember, you are also protected under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). One of the provisions of the law states that you cannot be evicted from your home without a court order. If you are forced to move your family out of military housing because rats, mold, or lead paint is making them ill, this is a form of eviction known as constructive eviction. If you sue your landlord under the SCRA and win, you can be released from your lease without penalty and you may also be owed damages.
Will Base Legal Help?
Despite the other valuable services base legal provides to you, this is one area where they will not be able to help. Because your landlord is a military contractor and the military can’t sue their own contractors, you will need to get outside legal help to sue your landlord under SCRA or state tenants’ rights laws.
As a Marine myself, I understand the sacrifices you are making to serve your country and I am committed to fighting back against housing contractors who refuse to ensure that members of our armed forces and their families have access to safe housing. If you are being blamed for the condition of your house or are looking to get out of a lease without penalty, contact me as soon as possible. I represent servicemembers in housing disputes across the country.