A national property management company accused of charging nine service members illegal rental fees has agreed to compensate the aggrieved parties and settle the case, the Justice Department announced Monday.
In a complaint filed Sept. 29, federal attorneys claimed that JAG Management Company, over a span of approximately two years, attempted to extract thousands in lease termination fines from troops forced to move because of military orders. The Virginia-based firm settled the case the same day, agreeing to pay $41,581 to the service members and a $20,000 civil penalty to the government.
Justice Department officials argued that the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, a 1940 law designed to stabilize the civilian lives of military personnel, grants members of the armed forces the right to “terminate a residential lease without penalty upon entering into military service or upon receiving qualifying military orders” — such as a deployment or permanent change of station.
Nine service members from four different branches living at a JAG property in New Jersey said the company demanded they repay thousands of dollars in rental concessions after terminating their contracts to deploy or PCS.
Some troops, fearful of stains on their credit scores, agreed to pay the fine, according to the complaint. One Coast Guard lieutenant who refused to cough up $2,120 in fees was allegedly hounded by debt collectors enlisted by the company.
“Service members should not have to pay any fees — much less exorbitant fees — to landlords when they are simply complying with their military orders and protecting our country,” Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s civil rights division, said in a press release.
In addition to monetary compensation, JAG agreed to tweak its policies in accordance with the SCRA and retract the negative credit reports it had filed against the tenants.
Jaime Moore-Carrillo is an editorial fellow for Military Times and Defense News. A Boston native, Jaime graduated with degrees in international affairs, history, and Arabic from Georgetown University, where he served as a senior editor for the school's student-run paper, The Hoya.