Active service members and their families should not have to live in unsafe military housing. They have a right to live in a home that is safe and well-maintained. However, some private companies that have contracted with the U.S. military to provide housing are cutting corners by not properly maintaining or repairing properties. This article explains your rights and recourse.
Military families are filing lawsuits nationwide for claims against privatized landlords for dangerous housing that includes toxic mold injuries. In this Action News Jax story, a Jacksonville woman discusses how years ago, she spoke out about the mold in her Norfolk, Virginia home, which resulted in investigations and Congressional hearings.
Tenant Bill of Rights
Due to the numerous complaints about military housing, the Department of Defense enacted a Tenant Bills of rights in February to protect tenants. It requires:
- The property must be in compliance with applicable health and environmental standards. It must have working fixtures, appliances and utilities, well-maintained common areas and amenity spaces.
- Property management services must meet or exceed industry standards.
- Repair or maintenance requests must be done through an electronic work order system so progress can be tracked.
- Tenants should have several methods to communicate with directly with the landlord’s maintenance staff. They must be informed how long repairs/maintenance will take. In cases involving habitability, tenants must be relocated to suitable lodging at no cost to them until repairs are made.
- A written lease is required with clearly defined rental terms and regulations about occupancy and common area use, information about fees and utility payments. There can be no refundable fees. The lease must include a military tenant advocate and dispute resolution process.
- A plain language briefing is required before the lease signing and 30 days after move-in, covering the tenant’s rights and responsibilities.
- Adequate time and opportunity must be given to prepare for move-in and move-out inspections.
- Advance notice of entrance must be given by a landlord, housing staff or chain of command, except in an emergency.
- The right to report inadequate housing standards or deficiencies to the landlord, chain of command or housing office without fear of reprisal or retaliation; unlawful possession of the housing unit, unlawful rent increase, or decrease in service are prohibited. Landlords may not harass the tenant, interfere with their career or right to privacy.
- The right to access a Military Tenant Advocate and military legal assistance attorney (through the housing management office where the housing unit is located) to assist with dispute resolution preparation which may include mediation, arbitration or a claim against the landlord.
In addition, tenants will have access to maintenance history and a process for dispute resolution, which includes withholding rent until disputes are resolved.
At Terrell Hogan, we are committed to helping military families live in safe, secure and properly maintained housing. If you or a loved one lives in dangerous military housing that has caused you harm, and you were unable to resolve your complaint through your chain of command, housing management office or military legal assistance attorney, consider contacting me for a complimentary assessment of your claim.