The full slate of protections offered to military members and their families who are tenants of privatized housing under the Military Housing Privatization Initiative (MHPI) “Tenant Bill of Rights” included in the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) will be available by the end of the fiscal year “with very few exceptions,” a top DoD official told MOAA during a July 28 webinar event.
Establishing these protections marks a “really important part of our effort to rebuild trust with military families,” said Patricia Coury, deputy assistant secretary of defense for housing. At least 84% of privatized housing projects already provide the 18 rights listed in the legislation, including dispute-resolution and rent-withholding provisions that have lagged in implementation.
“There’s quite the number of requirements that we had to implement, on both the military side and the partner side, to make sure everybody understood – if a resident had an issue, where do they go to first? Where do they go to second?” said Brad Collier, public-private ventures program manager for the Office of the Assistant Deputy Secretary of the Navy, who joined Coury on an expert panel. “We wanted those to be successful, so we wanted to make sure we had a solid process.”
The Department of the Navy has implemented the full slate of rights across 100% of its privatized housing projects, Collier said, though he was not aware of any servicemembers making use of the official dispute-resolution process.
MOAA has supported housing reforms including the bill of rights, which was strengthened in the FY 2021 NDAA, which expanded requirements for seven-year maintenance histories to be available to both prospective and current tenants, and modified the dispute resolution process to impose a reduction in rent if a landlord fails to meet deadlines specified in the final decision as part of the formal dispute resolution process.
[RELATED: New Law Strengthens ‘Bill of Rights’ Provisions for Tenants in Military Housing]
The webinar panel also included Maj. Michael S. Archer, USMC (Ret), legal assistance director for Marine Corps Installations-East, and Shannon Razsadin, president and executive director of the Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN).
Razsadin stressed the importance of servicemembers and their families understanding and employing these new protections.
“When this all kind of came to a head in 2019, we asked for this clarity,” she said. “We asked for these systems to be put in place, and they have been. And now we have to use them.”
A revised MHPI Tenant Bill of Rights, which includes all 18 protections from the original legislation, is under congressional review, Coury said. The final right, which includes common documentation, forms, and processes to the maximum extent possible, includes the “universal lease.” Development of the universal lease template has required DoD to work with MHPI companies to craft legal documents meeting the needs of the housing companies as well as landlord-tenant laws of state and local jurisdictions. MHPI housing projects at about 35% of military installations with privatized housing already are using the universal lease framework for tenants entering new or renewed leases, with legal reviews ongoing to finalize the state and local addendums for use of the universal lease at remaining MHPI housing projects.
Despite these issues, “we expect that with very few exceptions, all 18 rights will be available at all MHPI projects, including that universal lease … by the end of the fiscal year, by the end of September 2021,” Coury said.
“A lot of good work has been done on these critical protections,” said Jen Goodale, MOAA’s director of government relations for military family policy and spouse programs, who served as the panel moderator. “MOAA will continue to push for a better quality of life for military families and to offer products like this webinar to ensure these families understand and can utilize the protections already on the books.”
The webinar also covered:
- How DoD uses various types of tenant feedback (point-of-service surveys, annual satisfaction surveys, military housing office complaints, etc.) to set housing policy and focus its oversight efforts.
- How the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) can protect tenants during legal disputes, what lease-termination options are available to servicemembers, and what steps should be taken to ensure those options can be exercised – including a stop at your nearby military legal assistance office.
- Background on renters insurance, and how to determine appropriate coverage types and levels based on your region and financial situation.
- Tips for servicemembers on how and when to engage their chain of command as part of housing issues.
MOAA Premium and Life members can access more webinar recordings at MOAA’s Webinar Archive page.
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