Brookline landlord settles with Feds for violating rights of active duty military officer

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BOSTON – A Brookline landlord has entered into a settlement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to resolve allegations that she refused to fully refund a servicemember who had to terminate his lease because he was relocated by the U.S. Army.

Deborah Levenson resolved allegations that she violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) by refusing to refund overpaid rent and delaying returning the security deposit to a servicemember who received orders from the U.S. Army to relocate to another state. Under the terms of the settlement, which must be approved by the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, Levenson must pay her former tenant $3,000 in damages, pay a civil penalty of $500 to the United States, and is prohibited from violating the SCRA in the future.

The purpose of the SCRA is to provide servicemembers with protections against certain civil proceedings that could adversely affect their legal rights while they are in military service.  When servicemembers receive military orders requiring them to relocate, including orders to deploy overseas, the SCRA permits them to terminate residential leases and requires their landlords to return overpayments in rent and security deposits.

“Men and women in uniform risk their lives for our country, and Congress enacted the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act to protect their rights when they are called away to serve our nation,” said United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling. “We will aggressively enforce the SCRA. Our military members deserve no less.”

Servicemembers and their dependents who believe that their rights under the SCRA have been violated should contact the nearest Armed Forces Legal Assistance Program Office. Office locations may be found at http://legalassistance.law.af.mil/content/locator.php.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Torey B. Cummings of Lelling’s Civil Rights Unit handled the matter. 

The Civil Rights Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office was established in 2015 with the mission of enhancing federal civil rights enforcement.  For more information on the Office’s civil rights efforts, please visit www.justice.gov/usao-ma/civil-rights

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