SpouseBuzz

Can You Sue Housing and Win?

A group of Hampton Roads Navy families is suing the privatized military housing company for mold damage – and may just win.

The lawsuit, which was filed last year, cleared a major legal hurdle yesterday, according to this site, when a judge denied Lincoln Military Housing’s motion to dismiss. Lincoln had said they were immune to lawsuits because they were working on behalf of the Navy. The judge didn’t agree, and now the issue will go trial. If the families win, their damage awards may reach into the millions, the news station reported.

Any military spouse who has ever lived in on-base housing knows what it’s like to butt heads with unhelpful housing officials. Maybe it’s a leaky roof that no one can manage to fix or the constant presence of roaches (I’m looking at you, Fort Benning!). Or maybe it’s something little, but oh so aggravating, like unresponsive leasing agents. (How are you even supposed to get on the housing list if no one will answer the phone?!)

No matter what the problem, housing officials can make you feel powerless. You agreed to live in their housing (or, worse, you didn't have a choice) so now you are stuck with their conditions.

But that does not have to be the case. And while a lawsuit is probably not going to be the appropriate recourse for a continually broken oven, it is empowering to know that, no, you don’t have to let housing walk all over you.

There are ways to get your voice heard. And these Nofolk families have demonstrated that.

This group of Navy families is not the first to sue a military housing company since the 1996 shift from military management to privatization. At least four other families or groups of families have sued military housing management companies and settled out of court.

At least three suits have been brought against Clark Pinnacle management company by families living in the old Fort Ord housing near the Persidio in Monterey, Calif. All of those suits, one of which was a class action suit on behalf of 10 families, were settled out of court. In one 2007 case the damage awarded to a single family reached $75,000, according to this site.

And a group of families brought a class action suit against Equity Residential at Fort Lewis, Wash. in 2004 when the company refused to comply with aspects of the Americans With Disability Act (ADA) and provide things like wider doorways for wheelchairs. The company eventually settled out court and agreed to make 10 percent of the houses there ADA compliant. The existence of any cash settlement wasn’t disclosed.

You are unlikely to ever experience a housing problem that warrants a lawsuit. But youcan  find other ways to get your problem in front of the officials who can do something about it. File ICE complaints until you can’t see straight. (Don't know how? Check out our handy guide). Attend town hall listening sessions with base officials. Show-up and speak-up.

Don’t just suffer in silence.

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