Military families file court injunction to stop housing company from leasing sewage-filled Texas house to other families
AUSTIN, Texas – Three military families – one after the other -- moved into the same home at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, only to be forced out by the same sewage problems.
Air Force Lt. Col. Carmen and Mary Beth Pisano and their three daughters, who were the most recent family to move into the house, spent a year battling unexplained illnesses and countless work orders for stagnant raw sewage below the house to ongoing leaks and yellow water to walls so soft the pressure of a thumb left an indentation.
An injunction filed by the Pisanos and eight other military families in federal court Thursday aims use a court order to stop Hunt Military Communities, the private company behind the base’s housing, from continuing to lease homes with unresolved and unsafe maintenance problems.
“We believe that for a whole variety of reasons, the military has not been effective in dealing with this problem, and Congress has not been effective in dealing with this problem. We are asking to get the court to step in and say no more,” said Jim Moriarty, a Houston-based attorney representing the families in the lawsuit alongside the San Antonio-based firm Pulman, Cappuccio & Pullen. “We are asking for relief above and beyond economic damages. We need relief right now.”
A representative for Hunt said the company does not comment on pending litigation.
The injunction, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, San Antonio Division, is part of multifamily lawsuit filed in October against Hunt for mold- and pest-infested housing at Randolph Air Force Base, which is part of Joint Base San Antonio, and Laughlin Air Force Base near Del Rio in west Texas. Originally filed on behalf of eight families, the lawsuit expanded last month to include the Pisanos.
“Hunt leased the Pisanos a house with broken sewer lines, leading to a months-long undiscovered case of standing water and raw sewage under the house,” according to court documents. They were at least the third family in a row to move into the house and then move out because of sewage, according to the documents.
The Pisanos were given 24 hours to accept the house, sight unseen, according to the documents. When they arrived on base in November 2018, a neighbor warned them of prior tenants’ experiences.
“Upon hearing this, the Pisanos asked Hunt about prior issues, but Hunt assured them there was only a minor prior water issue. That was false,” according to the documents.
After 11 months of continuous work order requests, a contractor hired to clean the home’s air ducts found 8 inches of standing water and raw sewage in the crawlspace under the home. The family immediately moved out.
Thursday’s filing asks the court to order Hunt not to lease houses at Randolph and Laughlin that were vacated as of Oct. 29 until the houses are inspected and certified as safe for human habitation by a third-party inspector appointed by the court.
“It’s no harm, no foul to the companies, because they claim all their homes are habitable. If it’s true, then it’s no big deal,” Moriarty said.
Other requests in the filing include for Hunt to stop retaliating against any tenant and deposit all rent received by Hunt for any house on Randolph and Laughlin without a cleared inspection into an account of the court, according to the documents.
Forms of retaliation listed include communicating with the resident’s chain of command, making statements to current or prospective landlords, refusing to lease a property at another base to any complaining service member and charging termination or cleaning fees to a tenant who terminates a lease or does not renew because of health or safety concerns.