Thursday, August 11, 2016
State Settles With Contractors, Lawyers Who Allegedly Evicted Military Families Illegally
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The state has reached a $252,000 settlement with two private military housing contractors and the law firm that represented them in the allegedly unlawful evictions of 18 military service members and their families from private military housing complexes in San Diego and Orange counties, Attorney General Kamala D. Harris said yesterday.
Lincoln Military Property Management LP and San Diego Family Housing LLC and the San Diego law firm of Kimball, Tirey & St. John LLP must pay $200,000 in civil penalties, as well as provide $52,000 in debt relief for the service members and assist them in restoring and repairing their credit histories, the Attorney General’s Office said in a release.
The settlement also requires the defendants to provide privacy protections to victims, including identity theft repair and mitigation services for one year following notification, the release said. In addition, any default judgment evicting a service member and his or her family that was unlawfully obtained will be dismissed.
Harris argued the evictions violated the California Military and Veterans Code, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, and other state debt collection laws which protect service members who are sued while serving on active military duty and are therefore unable to appear and defend themselves in court. These laws prevent the entry of a default judgment unless a lawyer has been appointed to represent the interests of the absent defendant, and to prohibit the use of false statements to collect a debt.
The contractors were also accused of violating California privacy laws by filing court documents that included unredacted Social Security numbers, birth dates, or other personal information of nearly 100 service members and military family members.
Harris said it was “unconscionable that companies would prey upon and illegally evict servicemembers and their families from their homes.”
A landlord who seeks to evict a member of the military from his or her residence is required by state and federal law to file an affidavit reflecting the defendant’s military status. The defendants “routinely” breached that requirement, the state alleged in its complaint.
The defendants are also facing a federal suit brought by the Department of Justice, Harris said.
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