California reached a $252,000 settlement with two contractors over the companies' unlawful evictions of 18 military service members and their families from private military housing in San Diego and Orange counties, Attorney General Kamala Harris announced Wednesday.
Harris argued that the evictions violated the California Military and Veterans Code, the Service Members Civil Relief Act and other state debt collection laws that protect service members who are sued while serving on active military duty.
"It is unconscionable that companies would prey upon and illegally evict service members and their families from their homes," Harris said. "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."
The laws prevent the entry of a default judgment unless an attorney has been appointed to represent the interests of the absent service member, 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 service members and military family members.
The defendants, Lincoln Military Property Management LP and San Diego Family Housing LLC, and their eviction law firm are required to pay $200,000 in civil penalties, as well as provide $52,000 in debt relief for the service members 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 a year.
In addition, any default judgment evicting a service member and his or her family that was unlawfully obtained will be dismissed.
“It is unfortunate that this occurred, but, we have taken specific actions to address it," San Diego Family Housing LLC said in a statement. "We look forward to continuing to provide excellent housing and healthy communities to the military families who reside in one of our more than 10,000 off-base housing units in California and across our country who we are honored to serve.”
The complaint, filed 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 service members.
The Department of Justice filed a parallel complaint in U.S. District Court in San Diego alleging violations of federal law.