The Vinales family is one of eight military families suing Hunt Military Communities in connection with their mold-infested home at Randolph AFB. Earlier this year, the family decided to stay in their RV while their house at Randolph AFB was being remediated for mold, to provide a fun, comfortable ‘camping trip’ experience for their children before their move. (Photo courtesy Vinales family.)
Citing all-too familiar scenarios ranging from houses overrun by cockroaches to mold-blackened walls, eight military families have filed a lawsuit against a privatized housing company alleging fraud in connection with their homes that were uninhabitable.
The complaint, filed Tuesday in federal court in San Antonio, alleges that Hunt Military Communities failed to properly maintain the houses at Randolph Air Force Base and Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, “subjecting tenant service members and their families to atrocious conditions, including pervasive mold and other airborne toxins.” It alleges the company was aware of the condition of the houses, but misled the families by leasing houses that were uninhabitable and not safe for human occupancy.
The families are from the Army, Air Force and Navy.
The lawsuit cites examples of human waste deposited under houses because of plumbing that was disconnected for years; mold growing on the rim of a child’s toothpaste tube in a mold-infested bathroom; floors detaching from walls, leaking roofs, and asbestos and lead-based paint filling the air.
Many of the service members and their family members have fallen ill with a variety of respiratory and other symptoms, have lost nearly all their personal possessions because of mold contamination, and paid their full base housing for the “woefully substandard” housing, according to the lawsuit.
The defendants names are AETC II Privatized Housing, LLC; AETC II Property Managers, LLC; and Hunt Military Communities.
Officials with Hunt Companies denied the allegations in a statement provided to Military Times: “We are aware of the lawsuit recently filed against Hunt Military Communities. We believe the lawsuit is without merit and intend to vigorously defend the Company against these baseless claims.”
The allegations cited in the lawsuit echo the housing issues that have been raised by countless military families over the last year. Military officials and company officials have vowed publicly to immediately fix problems and set permanent fixes in motion. Service officials have admitted they abdicated their responsibility, and gave up their oversight roles over the years to private companies who were supposed to provide better housing, sustain and maintain it for 50 years.
One common theme in this lawsuit was that families repeatedly put in maintenance requests asking Hunt to address the mold and other problems, but “Hunt would misdiagnose the issue, utilize substandard service providers to allegedly remediate the problems, and mislead its tenants about the remediation actions allegedly undertaken,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit asks for an unspecified amount of damages for the eight families. Attorneys are in the process of determining those estimates, said James Moriarty, an attorney representing the families. But he estimated it will be “in the millions to tens of millions of dollars.” That includes the refunds of Basic Allowance for Housing the families paid during the time they were living in the housing, the cost of lost personal property infested with mold, excessive utility bills, environmental testing, and medical expenses in the past and in the future.
Ryan C. Reed, also representing the families, said there are a lot of similarities in these cases to a recent jury award of more than $2 million to a Marine Corps family in connection with mold contamination and other issues in their privatized housing residence in San Diego.
Moriarty said he is especially concerned about the children in the families, and the long-term health effects.
“The level of overcharges and abuse of these families is out of control,” he said. “These companies have gotten away with decades of financial and health and safety abuse……I see a crystal clear pattern of under-maintenance of these properties.”
Read the full story at militarytimes.com