In February 2020, the Defense Department announced that the defense secretary and the uniformed service secretaries signed a Tenant Bill of Rights (TBOR) providing 15 of the 18 tenant rights for active duty privatized military housing residents that were included in the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The Military Housing Privatization Initiative (MHPI) TBOR is intended to improve the quality of housing and services provided to residents living in privatized military housing. While many items covered by the TBOR were already embedded in the Military Housing Association (MHA) member companies’ operations, some elements were more complex and required military housing project owners to continue working with the DoD, service branches, and project lenders to finalize their implementation. MHA member companies are committed to successfully implementing the remaining rights across their housing portfolios and they have been using the MHA as a forum to develop best practices and the unified approach needed to fully implement the Tenant Bill of Rights.
The outstanding elements included a standardized formal dispute resolution process, including a mechanism for withholding of rent, and the creation of new processes to provide maintenance history information to prospective residents before they sign a lease. MHA member companies are actively working to roll out these remaining rights beginning June 1. In addition, the companies are actively working with the service branches to begin implementing the universal lease to active-duty military beginning June 1.
Prior to the FY2020 NDAA requirements, MHA member companies had begun implementing a wide range of solutions to address important issues raised by service members and their families. These changes, which are reflected in the TBOR, include introducing mobile apps and online portals to facilitate communication and access, implementing new protocols for service requests, retaining third-party experts for preventive maintenance, and working with every service branch to develop a universal lease that can be used across all the services and standardized assessment and remediation approaches for dealing with environmental hazards.
MHA member companies are committed to providing the best quality housing, community amenities, and customer service for service members and their families across the over 140,000 homes they manage at over 150 military communities. To that end, MHA member companies have been working alongside the DoD and the respective services for over a year to ensure each TBOR provision is successfully implemented across the MHPI’s diverse portfolio.
MHA member companies recognize that moving can be a stressful experience for service members and their families, so they have worked to simplify the leasing process by developing forms and documents that are consistent, regardless of the military housing community or provider. Creating a truly universal lease that applies to Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force MHPI communities is no small feat. MHA member companies worked with each service branch to create a single lease template and corresponding addenda that correspond with the various state law requirements. In most cases, lender consent is needed. The new lease will also include provisions to more efficiently resolve tenant disputes and to facilitate Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) withholding under a clearly defined process.
MHA members are now providing unprecedented transparency to service members deciding where to live when they transfer to a new duty station with an easy to understand 7-year maintenance history of a home. Providing prospective residents with additional maintenance history information will empower military families when choosing a home that is right for them. This level of transparency for prospective residents has never been done before at this scale — either in the military or civilian rental markets.
Most service members can choose whether to live in a MHPI community or “off-base.” MHA members are dedicated to providing a quality living experience for service members and their families that goes beyond the TBOR. MHA member companies continue to take a number of steps to enhance the resident experience, including improving communications, establishing more streamlined processes, and providing enhanced virtual tools. We remain committed to building supportive communities for our military.
General (Ret.) John Campbell serves as a senior adviser for the Military Housing Association. He graduated from West Point and served 37 years in the Army, his early years in infantry and special forces assignments. He commanded troops at all levels and served as the Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army and as the Commander of all US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
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