- EXCLUSIVE: 80,000 troops could have been overcharged for accommodation
- Lawyers at Leigh Day have now launched a legal claim against Britain’s MoD
Tens of thousands of British troops ‘unfairly’ charged to live in military housing could soon sue the Ministry of Defence in an ‘historic’ age discrimination lawsuit that could cost £100 million.
Lawyers from UK legal firm Leigh Day have launched a claim against the MoD, accusing it of overcharging some 80,000 young or unmarried personnel for housing costs.
British Army soldiers under 37, or over this age but who aren’t married, pay for ‘single living accommodation’, while those over 37 and married are eligible for a valuable accommodation allowance. In the Royal Navy and RAF only those who are married or in a civil partnership qualify for this benefit.
Solicitors at Leigh Day argue the policy discriminates against younger or single troops who have been ‘effectively subsidising’ the MoD housing system to ‘provide cheaper rent’ to older or married troops.
About 500 serving personnel have expressed an interest in pursuing legal action, which if successful could see an average of £10,000 paid out to troops – hitting £5million in payouts. But experts claim the real cost could skyrocket if more come forward, potentially hitting a staggering £100million.
News of the legal action was branded ‘unprecedented’ by military veterans, with one former Colonel in British military intelligence adding: ‘This will be a huge embarrassment for the Ministry of Defence.’
‘It is totally unfair that so many younger or unmarried members of the armed forces have been effectively subsidising the MoD’s policy to provide cheaper rent to those who are older or married,’ Leigh Day solicitor Ryan Bradshaw told MailOnline.
‘The Ministry of Defence has made some progress tackling the unfairness in its housing policies, but it is highly unlikely to compensate people for their losses unless they bring a legal claim against it.
‘We want to ensure future generations of service personnel don’t have to deal with out-of-date and discriminatory systems that favour people just because they are married and over a certain age.’
Currently, an unmarried Private in the army can pay between £30 and £80 a month for a single room, while senior officers like a Major, Lieutenant Commander in the navy or Squadron Leader in the RAF can pay between £68 and £229 a month, depending on the condition of the property.
While those living in larger family properties can pay anything from £105 for an unfurnished, smaller home, to £851 a month for a fully furnished, top-of-the-range one.
In 2021, watchdogs from the National Audit Office warned the MoD’s housing allowance system could be potentially discriminatory.
Despite this, Leigh Day said there has been ‘no change to the policy’ within the MoD and younger or single troops continue to stump up more for their housing.
The NAO probe found some 80,000 personnel were staying in single living accommodation and that more than half surveyed were ‘dissatisfied’ with the standard of the housing provided.
But some troops have faced living in squalid conditions. Last winter hundreds of families suffered without heating or hot water in freezing temperatures before Christmas, as they awaited repairs.
And earlier this year, MailOnline revealed how the King’s guards were living in filthy conditions at the iconic Wellington Barracks, with grim pictures showing piles of litter, blocked, filthy toilets and leaky appliances in the block.
Ministry of Defence data from last year showed that more than 4,000 members of the Armed Forces were living in accommodation so poor that no rent was charged.
Philip Ingram, a former Colonel in British military intelligence, said the potential lawsuit now facing the MoD could be a ‘huge embarrassment’ for top brass.
The military veteran said the MoD ‘failed’ to think about the implications of the policies it enforced, which had rules that were ‘not fit for purpose’.
‘The MoD is not people focused it is processed focused, so it does not surprise me whatsoever that this rule has been missed. This will be a huge embarrassment for the MoD and one that could prove to be very costly,’ he said.
Alfie Usher, a former paratrooper who now runs the claims management company Claims Bible, said the MoD could face an historic class action against it from thousands of British military personnel.
He said: ‘The MoD has never had a class action quite like this. It’s unprecedented. It could be facing a lawsuit of over £100million – and that’s being conservative.
‘There are 500 people who have expressed an interest, so that’s potentially £5million. But there are 80,000 that could be eligible. If even a small percentage of this came forward, the MoD could be looking at a huge pay out.’
In 2022 a gay Royal Navy officer won £46,000 after he said he was made to feel ‘sub-human’ by a discriminatory accommodation policy which forced him to come out against his wishes.
The anonymous serviceman told an employment tribunal he was discriminated against by Navy guidelines on providing housing for officers – which meant he had had to disclose his sexuality to colleagues.
He successfully argued that the Senior Service breached the Equality Act by cutting the types of accommodation it offered single men to just one – while giving married couples the option of two to choose from.
The tribunal found that the policy would have ‘a disproportionate effect on the group of Service Personnel who identify as gay’ as members of the LGB community are ‘less likely to be married or in a civil partnership than heterosexual service personnel’.
When the officer sent an email flagging his issues with the accommodation policy, this email – which included details of his sexual orientation – was circulated to other officers without his consent.
The officer, described as a ‘high-flyer with an impressive range of skills and qualities’ who displayed ‘consistently high performance’, was awarded £46,959 by an employment judge, including more than £25,000 for ‘injury to feelings’.
The serviceman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told the hearing: ‘I have found the whole experience stressful, draining and a distraction from just being able to lead a normal life.
‘[It] makes me feel that somehow I am sub-human and not worthy of the consideration that others would receive.’
Leigh Day said its age discrimination case against the MoD was in the early stages and urged people to come forward to find out if they are eligible to claim compensation.
In a statement to MailOnline, the MoD said: ‘It would be inappropriate for us to comment further on potential legal action at this time.’
The department previously vowed to make all Single Living Accommodation ‘fit for purpose’ by 2030 with new investment, with £1.6bn being spent over the next decade.
Anyone who thinks they may be eligible to join the claim can find out more here.