SAN DIEGO– Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced that California has reached a $252,000 settlement with two privatized military housing contractors over the companies' unlawful evictions of 18 military servicemembers and their families from private military housing complexes in San Diego and Orange Counties.
Attorney General Harris argued that these evictions violated the California Military and Veterans Code, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, and other state debt collection laws which protect servicemembers 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 servicemember, and they prohibit the use of false statements to collect a debt. In addition, the contractors allegedly violated California privacy laws by filing court documents that included unredacted Social Security numbers, birth dates, or other personal information of nearly 100 servicemembers and military family members.
The defendants, Lincoln Military Property Management LP and San Diego Family Housing LLC and their eviction law firm, Kimball, Tirey & St. John LLP, are required to pay $200,000 in civil penalties, as well as provide $52,000 in debt relief for the servicemembers harmed by their conduct and assist victims with restoring and repairing credit history. The settlement also requires the defendants to provide privacy protections to victims, including identity theft repair and mitigation services for one year following notification. In addition, any default judgment evicting a servicemember and his or her family that was unlawfully obtained will be dismissed.
“It is unconscionable that companies would prey upon and illegally evict servicemembers and their families from their homes,” said Attorney General Harris. “This agreement holds these contractors accountable for their unlawful conduct – including illegal evictions and privacy violations – and ensures that veterans' rights under the law are protected. I want to thank the Navy Region Legal Service Office (RLSO) Southwest of San Diego for helping us secure justice for the servicemembers harmed by these companies.”
The complaint, filed today in San Diego Superior Court, alleges that Lincoln routinely evicted tenants from its private military housing complexes while failing to file affidavits that accurately reflected the military status of the servicemembers. The defendants also violated California privacy laws by disclosing the personal information of servicemembers, exposing at least 100 victims to a risk of identity theft.
The United States Department of Justice is filing a parallel complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California alleging violations of federal law.
This is Attorney General Harris's second action against a company that violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. The first was against JP Morgan Chase, which violated the Act in obtaining default judgments against servicemembers on credit card debt. The Attorney General also obtained a $1.1 billion judgment against Corinthian Colleges, which illegally used the official seals of the military services in advertisements to entice servicemembers and veterans to enroll in its programs.
The Attorney General's office has provided training and technical support to JAG legal assistance attorneys at military installations throughout California. The Attorney General has also issued multiple consumer alerts to help members of the military protect themselves from fraud and scams. Hermost recent alert for servicemembers and veterans, issued in honor of Memorial Day, provides tips on how to avoid common scams including rental scams, pension scams, predatory auto sales and financing, and education rip-offs.
A copy of the complaint is attached to the online version of this news release atwww.oag.ca.gov/news.
Attorney General Kamala D. Harris / Wednesday, August 10, 2016