By WECT Staff | September 22, 2020 at 4:14 PM EDT – Updated September 22 at 10:32 PM
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – Four law firms are working together on a class action lawsuit over the housing conditions at Camp Lejeune. Attorneys filed suit Friday on behalf of Marine Corps service members and their families in Federal Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.
Joel Rhine of Wilmington-based Rhine Law Firm is serving as lead attorney for the plaintiffs, seeking damages and reforms to leasing practices. The lawsuit alleges that military families have had to live with disgusting and unacceptable conditions in housing units they lease at Camp Lejeune. The foul conditions range from water dripping out of electrical sockets, to black mold, to live cockroaches in their cupboards and failing air conditioning. A common complaint is the lack of effective customer service, repair and maintenance by the property managers.
The lawsuit describes that back in 2005, the government turned over management for thousands of homes to large private companies. Most homes at Lejeune are managed by Australian multinational Lendlease Group, along with Boston-based WinnCompanies. A survey of 315 Camp Lejeune residents released in May 2019 reported that over 60% of them had negative to very negative satisfaction rates with their housing and how it was managed. Their main complaints were poor maintenance and repair service, mold, and weather damage.
The housing is leased to servicemembers stationed at Lejeune. Rent gets deducted from their military paycheck. In 2019, Reuters published an award-winning series of investigative reports on the problems across the privatized housing at many bases. The U.S. House Armed Services Committee held a hearing in December 2019 at which executives from the largest companies responsible for the housing acknowledged intolerable conditions.
“These three brave servicemember families are not just suing for themselves. They are trying to get relief for their friends and neighbors too,” Rhine said. “Military families deserve security and dignity in their homes. These soldiers are heroes protecting us and placing themselves in harm’s way. When a military servicemember is deployed far from home, the last thing he or she needs to worry about is that the spouse and children are having to deal with toxic mold, broken air conditioning or other foul conditions.”
Virginia-based co-counsel David Wise added, “Our firm represented families with similar problems in Virginia. They experienced mold, water intrusion, and other problems. Slumlord conditions like this are unacceptable, but unfortunately occur far too often.”
Camp Lejeune declined to comment specifically on the lawsuit as they are not a party to it, but did express concern for the well being of their service members.
“[T]he Marine Corps is committed to ensuring our families have safe and adequate housing. We thoroughly investigate any life, health, or safety concerns raised by our residents, and work through our housing partners to ensure any underlying issues are properly addressed,” Camp Lejeune Communications Director Nat Fahy told WECT.
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