Commentary

DoD leaves military families waiting on tenant bill of rights

It has been 10 months since the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was signed into law. Within the 2020 NDAA is new legislation for military families living in privatized housing, which includes the tenant bill of rights. The document lists 18 rights provided to service members and their families to help them better advocate for themselves while living in military privatized housing.

In February, the secretary of defense and uniformed services secretaries signed the tenant bill of rights, but only the first 15 rights had been implemented. The last three rights are the most needed and most important. They include resident access to maintenance history, a process for dispute resolution, and establishing residents' ability to withhold rent.

On March 3, at a military privatized housing hearing with the subcommittee on military construction, Rep. Matt Cartwright, of Pennsylvania, asked the acting assistant secretary of defense, Peter Potochney, when the last three rights would be implemented. Potochney responded, saying May 1, 2020.

On June 1, the assistant secretary of defense sent out a memorandum to military families stating that not only will families still have to wait for the last three rights, but they would also now have to wait for the 15th right.

Most recently, during the AUSA Military Family Forum II, Lt. Gen. Douglas Gabram, commanding general of the U.S. Army Installation Management Command, was still unable to provide families with an update on when the rights would be available and stated it was at the Office of the Secretary of Defense level.

Currently, military families do not have the tools to advocate for themselves and are not able to hold the private housing companies accountable. The Department of Defense (DoD) is continually assuring families that they are working with the privatized housing companies on the missing rights.

How much longer must military families wait for something that is already the law? Why do these companies have the power to withhold the rights that military families living in housing are entitled to? It seems to me that the private housing companies are allowed to pick and choose which laws they prefer to abide by.

If the DoD can not even get the private housing companies to agree to the provisions set forth in the tenant bill of rights, it makes one wonder if military families can truly rely on the DoD to hold the private housing companies accountable and to provide the much needed oversight.

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