For many of our clients who live on base or in privatized military housing, issues with maintenance requests and other tenant-to-landlord concerns have historically caused major headaches. Although there are established rights for both tenants and landlords, such as the rights put in place in Maryland, legal issues in military housing can be difficult to settle, because local and state law enforcement may not always have jurisdiction over the decisions made in housing provided on a military installation.
If your family is struggling to have maintenance requests and other livability issues addressed by a privatized military housing company, it is in your best interests to seek advice from an attorney experienced in these areas. At Patriots Law Group, we are committed to giving you and your family the best possible legal care and outcomes, no matter your situation.
Luckily, the issues associated with military housing have an official response from the U.S. Military – and positive change is on its way.
On February 25, 2020, the service secretaries along with Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper signed the Tenant Bill of Rights . The signed document addresses 15 of the 18 rights that were signed into law in the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2020. These final three rights require more time to be implemented, as the companies involved in the Military Privatized Housing Initiative have indicated a willingness to implement but currently have financial concerns. These rights became effective on May 1, 2020, and are designed to bridge the gap between military families and the private companies that rent out their homes.
A Reuters investigation from 2018 shined a dismal light on housing issues for military families, from allegations of unaddressed black mold to rodent infestations and more. The costs associated with moving off-base can be too high for many military families to cover, so the issue becomes a choice between dealing with unpleasant housing issues and difficult leasing companies, or forking over the funds needed to move off base.
The Tenant Bill of Rights seeks to change that.
“No military family should ever have to contend with chronic maintenance issues or concerns such as mold, pests and intrusion in their home,” said Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer, in an interview with U.S. Army Public Affairs. “In order to fulfill our obligations to our family members and ensure the readiness of the force, we must demand excellence and responsiveness from all concerned, including our housing partners. The Tenant Bill of Rights is a much needed first step in that direction.”
Based on findings from military investigations prompted by the Reuters report, resident complaints, and resident surveys like the satisfaction survey conducted by the Army from April 23 – May 24 of 2019, the Tenant Bill of Rights outlines the following for every military service member and their family members while living in privatized housing.
All residents have the right to:
- The right to reside in a housing unit and a community that meets applicable health and environmental standards.
- The right to reside in a housing unit that has working fixtures, appliances, and utilities and to reside in a community with well-maintained common areas and amenity spaces.
- The right to a written lease with clearly defined rental terms to establish tenancy in a housing unit, including any addendums and other regulations imposed by the Landlord regarding occupancy of the housing unit and use of common areas.
- The right to a plain-language briefing, before signing a lease and 30 days after move-in, by the installation housing office on all rights and responsibilities associated with tenancy of the housing unit, including information regarding the existence of any additional fees authorized by the lease, any utilities payments, the procedures for submitting and tracking work orders, the identity of the military tenant advocate, and the dispute resolution process.
- The right to have sufficient time and opportunity to prepare and be represent for move-in and move-out inspections, including an opportunity to obtain and complete necessary paperwork.
- The right to report inadequate housing standards or deficits in habitability of the housing unit to the Landlord, the chain of command, and housing management office without fear of reprisal or retaliation, including reprisal or retaliation in the following forms; (A) unlawful recovery of, or attempt to recover, possession of the housing unit; (B) unlawfully increasing the rent, decreasing services, or increasing the obligations of a Tenant; (C) interference with a Tenant's right to privacy; (D) harassment of a Tenant; (E) refusal to honor the terms of the lease; or (F) interference with the career of a Tenant.
- The right of access to a Military Tenant Advocate or a military legal assistance attorney, through the housing management office of the installation of the Department at which the housing unit is located to assist in the preparation of requests to initiate dispute resolution.
- The right to receive property management services provided by a Landlord that meet or exceed industry standards and that are performed by professionally and appropriately trained, responsive and courteous customer service and maintenance staff.
- The right to have multiple, convenient methods to communicate directly with the Landlord maintenance staff, and to receive consistently honest, accurate, straightforward, and responsive communication.
- The right to have access to an electronic work order system through which a Tenant may request maintenance or repairs of a housing unit and track the progress of the work.
- With respect to maintenance and repairs to a housing unit, the right to the following: (A) prompt and professional maintenance and repair; (B) to be informed of the required time frame for maintenance or repairs when a maintenance request is submitted; and (C) in the case of maintenance or repairs necessary to ensure habitability of a housing unit, to prompt relocation into suitable lodging or other housing at no cost to the Tenant until maintenance or repairs are completed.
- The right to receive advice from military legal assistance on procedures involving mechanisms for resolving disputes with the property management company or property manager to include mediation, arbitration, and filing claims against a Landlord.
- The right to have reasonable, advance notice of any entrance by a Landlord, installation housing staff, or chain of command into the housing unit, except in the case of an emergency or abandonment of the housing unit.
- The right to not pay non-refundable fees or have application of rent credits arbitrarily held.
- The right to expect common documents, forms, and processes for housing units will be the same for all installations of the Department, to the maximum extent applicable without violating local, State, and Federal regulations.
At Patriots Law Group, we understand how critical it is for you to have a home, not just a house. Servicemembers sacrifice so much already, and should not have to sacrifice their home's security, safety, or livability based on outdated lease agreements with private housing companies. We will continue to monitor the status of the Tenant Bill of Rights.
In the meantime, if you or a family member are facing legal difficulties in regard to a landlord-tenant issue in privatized military housing, we are here to help. The knowledge our attorneys and staff possess concerning the full spectrum of landlord-tenant services will ensure your rights and property – and your family's safety and comfort – are fully protected.
Give us a call today at 301-952-9000 to see how we can help.
DISCLAIMER: The information above is for general informational purposes only. No attorney-client relationship is intended or created by this information. Each individual situation is different and therefore a formal in-person consultation is necessary before any specific advice may be relied upon as appropriate and accurate for a given situation. Please call Patriots Law Group at 301-952-9000 to set up a consultation if you wish to obtain specific legal advice you may rely upon. We serve clients anywhere in the world, with in-person consultations available at our Suitland, MD office — right next to Andrews Air Force Base — for clients in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.