Over a dozen private property management companies manage on-base housing for the United States Military. This structure of military housing management arose under the Military Housing Privatization Initiative (MHPI), put in place in the 1996 National Defense Authorization Act. The MPHI calls for a “public/private program whereby private sector developers may own, operate, maintain, improve and assume responsibility for military family housing, where doing so is economically advantageous and national security is not adversely affected.”
While private property management companies engaged in MHPI ventures have specific obligations to uphold, there have been years of ongoing investigations related to complaints from military families of mold and inadequate maintenance by these companies. In recent years, lawsuits alleging poor construction, unsafe conditions and failure to maintain military housing against these companies have sprung up around the country.
On such private property management company, Corvias Group signed a fifty-year contract in 2012 to operate the on-base housing at Fort Meade, Maryland, which included the five existing neighborhoods at Fort Meade and a commitment to construct additional on-base housing. On November 13, 2019, ten military families filed a lawsuit in the U.S. district court for Maryland, alleging claims against Corvias that include negligence, civil conspiracy, fraud, and violations of the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act, as well as violations of state real estate regulations.
The lawsuit states that these military families were provided mold-infested housing, and despite continuous complaints and maintenance requests that were majorly ignored or inadequately addressed by Corvias, remediation efforts proved to be insufficient to cure these environmentally hazardous conditions. One family to the lawsuit alleges that it repeatedly submitted maintenance requests for water leaks and mold, but were informed by Corvias that these issues were attributable to recent weather events. The remedy—cleaning the visible mold from the home and painting over it. Independent mold testing of the on-base housing initiated by military families at Fort Meade proved the true extent of the issues, and according to the lawsuit, Corvias used industrial-strength air-filtration machines prior to air-quality testing to alter results on multiple occasions.
Families to this lawsuit allege sickness caused by mold spores, loss of personal property and household goods, and significant out-of-pocket expenses incurred in efforts to make their homes safe and habitable, which in some cases necessitated maxing out credit cards, taking second jobs and even donating plasma. The lawsuit seeks damages to cover economic harm, medical expenses and mental anguish for these families, and requests a class-wide injunction that would require Corvias to obtain certification that the housing is safe and habitable, as well as prohibiting Corvias from accepting any housing allowances from military families unless/until the home has been certified.
Corvias’ founder and CEO, John Picerne, has offered an apology for the issues within the military housing his company manages, and pledged to make a $325,000,000 investment at a number of bases, to include Fort Bragg, Fort Meade, Fort Riley in Kansas, Fort Rucker in Alabama, Fort Sill in Oklahoma, Fort Polk in Louisiana and Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. The plan proposes renovation and construction of new housing at both Fort Bragg and Fort Meade within the next three years, with more work to be completed at other military bases in the years to follow, all with the intention to expand the existing housing to better meet the needs of growing military families and provide these families with the housing they deserve.
As attorneys, we fight daily to ensure the safety and habitability of our clients’ homes, holding public and private entities accountable for poor and environmentally hazardous conditions affecting the public. The public expects adequate housing, regardless of the opulence of their living situation, and our servicemen and women should expect nothing less in on-base military housing. It should go without saying that we must work diligently to protect the lives of those we depend on to protect ours. For more information read here and here. For more information about Shipman & Wright, please click here.