Service members living at 37 Army installations — 84 percent of that service’s 44 installations that have privatized housing — now have all 18 of their tenant rights, Army officials said.
And Army officials expect all 18 tenant rights to be fully implemented at all installations with privatized housing by the end of July — ahead of the Defense Department’s timeline, which was recently delayed. DoD officials announced June 4 that they expect all 18 provisions of the tenant bill of rights to be fully implement by the end of September, “with few exceptions.”
The remaining seven Army installations have at least 15 of their rights, with the remaining three rights – universal lease, dispute resolution, and process for withholding rent during a dispute — in various stages.
“People are our No. 1 priority, and enacting these rights will improve the quality of life of our soldiers and their families,” said J.E. “Jack” Surash, acting assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy and environment, in an announcement of the status of the rights.
The 37 Army installations where all the 18 rights have been implemented are: Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania; Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey; Fort Bliss, Texas; White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico; Fort Carson, Colorado; Fort Detrick, Maryland; Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Maryland; Fort Gordon, Georgia; Fort Hamilton, New York; Fort Jackson, South Carolina; Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; Fort Stewart, Georgia; Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia; Fort Eustis, Virginia; Fort Story, Virginia; West Point, New York; Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland; Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Meade, Maryland; Fort Polk, Louisiana; Fort Riley, Kansas; Fort Rucker, Alabama; Fort Sill, Oklahoma; Fort Lee, Virginia; Redstone Arsenal, Alabama; Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Fort Drum, New York; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Knox, Kentucky; Fort Shafter/Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; Fort Wainwright, Alaska; Fort Greely, Alaska; Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington; Joint Base San Antonio–Fort Sam Houston, Texas; Fort Huachuca, Arizona; Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona; and Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Army officials declined to specify the seven installations where officials are still working to implement the remaining three rights. But four installations that aren’t listed are Fort Belvoir, Fort Benning, Fort Irwin and the Presidio of Monterey, California — all operated by Clark Realty.
While 14 of those 18 congressionally mandated tenant rights were implemented a year ago, four key tenant rights have been under negotiation with privatized housing companies: a dispute resolution process, a universal lease, process for withholding rent during dispute resolutions, and providing a tenant with seven years of a unit’s maintenance history. A number of privatized housing projects have already incorporated these rights — with the exception of the universal lease, said Paul Cramer, performing the duties of assistant defense secretary for sustainment and chief housing officer, in the June 4 DoD announcement.
The universal lease framework will standardize the general content of the military privatized housing tenant lease to the maximum extent possible, given the need for tenant leases to comply with state and local requirements, the DoD announcement stated.
The process for withholding rent in cases of some disputes with the landlord will involve setting the money aside in a separate account until the dispute is resolved.
In the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress mandated the 18 tenant rights. It was part of comprehensive reform provisions to address pervasive issues with mold, rodents and other health, safety and environmental hazards in privatized military housing.
Military families testified about frustrations over inability to get some of the private companies to fix the problems, and the lack of assistance from their military leadership on some bases.
Defense officials and service officials are working to implement additional reforms to improve the safety, quality and maintenance of privatized housing, and to ensure accountability at all levels of DoD and the housing companies — in order to perform the oversight that was originally intended with the privatization program, Cramer said.
At all Army installations, housing office personnel also provide a “plain language” brief to every new tenant at the time the lease is signed, and again at the 30-day mark, to explain the tenant rights.
Surash said officials encourage housing residents to provide feedback through the online tenant satisfaction surveys and town hall meetings, and to report housing issues through the Army Housing Online User Services app, the 24/7 telephone hotline and through their local housing offices.
“Our soldiers and families deserve safe, high-quality housing,” Surash said.
Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.