Justice Department today announced that it has reached an agreement
with the former owners of two apartment complexes in San Antonio, Texas,
to resolve allegations that they violated the Servicemembers Civil
Relief Act (SCRA) by imposing unlawful lease termination charges on 41
servicemembers and by refusing to allow four other servicemembers to
terminate their leases early.
The former owners — Western Rim Investors 2011-4, L.P. and Western
Rim Investors 2011-3, L.P. — owned the Estates at Briggs Ranch and the
Mansions at Briggs Ranch from Dec. 1, 2011 to March 31, 2020. Both
properties are located within 10 miles of Joint Base San
Under the proposed consent order, the owners must pay over $71,000 to
compensate servicemembers and a $64,715 civil penalty to the U.S.
Treasury. The consent order, which is subject to court approval,
resolves a suit filed today by the Department of Justice in the U.S.
District Court for the Western District of Texas.
“Our men and women in uniform risk their lives and liberty to
preserve our freedom, and we enjoy liberty and security because of their
sacrifices,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil
Right Division. “These patriots should not be charged a financial
penalty when an unexpected reassignment or rapid deployment requires
them to move. This settlement sends a warning to apartment associations
and landlords that they cannot avoid their obligations under the
Servicemembers Civil Relief Act simply by pointing to fine print in
boilerplate lease agreements. The department of Justice will not accept
these so-called ‘Waiver Addendums’ as valid waivers of servicemembers’
rights under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.”
“The Western District of Texas is proud to be home to one of the
largest concentrations of military members and their families in the
country,” said U.S. Attorney John Bash for the Western District of
Texas. “This office takes its responsibility to protect and enforce the
statutory rights of these men and women very seriously, so they can
focus on their service to our nation.”
The SCRA allows servicemembers to terminate a lease early after
entering military service or receiving qualifying military orders. Under
the law, qualifying orders include orders for a permanent change of
station, orders for a deployment of at least 90 days, and separation or
retirement orders. If a servicemember terminates a lease under the SCRA,
the law prohibits the landlord from imposing any early termination
The suit alleges that the servicemember-tenants at the Estates and
the Mansions at Briggs Ranch who terminated their leases pursuant to the
SCRA were required to pay back rent concessions or discounts that they
had received during their tenancies. These so-called “concession
chargeback” fees ranged from $116 to $1,012 per servicemember. The
department’s suit also alleges that the owners wrongfully denied lease
termination requests made by four other servicemembers.
The former apartment owners claim that they relied on lease contracts
and other forms provided by the Texas Apartment Association. One of
those forms was a lease addendum that claimed to waive a tenant’s rights
under the SCRA. The department alleges that the waiver addendum used by
the owners was invalid, because it was not executed as an instrument
separate from the lease, was expressly incorporated into the lease, was
signed at the same time as the lease and was not supported by any
additional benefit to the servicemember.
The department’s enforcement of the SCRA is conducted by the Civil
Rights Division’s Housing and Civil Enforcement Section and U.S.
Attorney’s Offices throughout the country. Since 2011, the department
has obtained over $474 million in monetary relief for over 120,000
servicemembers through its enforcement of the SCRA. For more information
about the department’s SCRA enforcement efforts, please visit www.servicemembers.gov.
Servicemembers and their dependents who believe that their rights
under SCRA have been violated should contact the nearest Armed Forces
Legal Assistance Program Office. Office locations may be found at legalassistance.law.af.mil/.