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Soldier wins lease battle with landlord

A soldier who prevailed in a dispute with his Arlington landlord won a significant victory for members of the armed forces in Virginia.

According to a news release from the George Mason University School of Law, the soldier was ordered to move to military quarters, but his private landlord was not cooperative when the solder sought to terminate his lease. The landlord not only failed to return the soldier’s security deposit, he counterclaimed for the balance of the rent due under the full lease term (as well as damages and attorneys’ fees).

Although Virginia’s Residential Landlord and Tenant Act protects service members when they are ordered on base, the landlord claimed that the protection provision did not apply because the soldier helped to arrange for the order to move on base.

GMU’s Clinic for Legal Assistance to Servicemembers (CLAS) took up the cause for the service member. At a hearing this week, Arlington District Judge Karen Henenberg rejected the landlord’s argument that the soldier’s involvement in obtaining “orders” to move into base housing was disqualifying under the statute.

According to the GMU release, Henenberg refused to read into the statute language that was not there. She noted that, especially where the landlord was aware of the statute, early termination is a risk the landlord assumes.

Henenberg also observed that if a tenant’s involvement in obtaining orders to move on base should make the statute inapplicable, that would be an issue for the General Assembly to address.

Henenberg ordered the landlord to pay damages under the Consumer Protection Act.

Avoidance of the landlord’s claim for rent, damages and fees, and the award of the security deposit and tenant’s damages, resulted in a victory for the CLAS client in excess of $13,000, according to the news release.

Posted by Peter Vieth

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