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Watchdog report reveals some military families lack rights to dispute housing problems

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Some military families living on base in housing run by private landlords still do not have the right to dispute housing concerns, according to a newly released Pentagon watchdog report.

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The Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Defense report reveals that of 14 private landlords across 172 installations around the U.S., five of those landlords have not implemented some of the provisions outlined in the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in lease agreements that were already in place previously.

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According to the report, this means some military families are missing out on access to the home’s 7-year maintenance history, the right to enter into a dispute resolution process, and the right to withhold rent payments through the Basic Housing Allowance (BAH) until the dispute is resolved.

A big part of the issue is that the landlords must voluntarily agree to include these provisions in existing agreements, and they are not legally required to do so.

“As a result, tenants whose landlords refused to voluntarily include the FY 2020 NDAA provisions retroactively in existing legal agreements do not have access to the same rights as tenants whose landlords agreed to include those provisions,” the report said.

At least one housing company listed in the report pointed the blame back to the Defense Department, telling our Washington News Bureau that it is waiting on the DOD to finalize the universal lease agreement before implementing the provision about the rent segregation and will be willing to do so once that is complete.

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Another company said it already offers tenants all the rights specified in the FY 2020 NDAA but just hasn’t included the language in the leases yet but is working on it.

In response to the report, defense officials told our Washington News Bureau that nearly 96 percent of military families in privatized housing have access to all of the rights specified in the FY 2020 NDAA.

“The Department continues to pursue agreement from the private companies at the five remaining installations, while ensuring that all MHPI companies/projects fully comply with their project legal agreements with the Military Departments, as well as all applicable federal, state, and local housing codes and laws,” defense officials said. “Military families who reside at the five remaining installations have access to at least 15 of the 18 MHPI Tenant rights, and all rights established in their tenant lease. Specifics about Military Departments efforts to obtain the five remaining private companies’ voluntarily agreement to implement the remaining rights at their projects is business sensitive. As a high-level example, one of the MHPI companies is working in coordination with the respective Military Department to resolve state-specific legal issues that have made the company unwilling to proceed with implementing the remaining rights.”

This report comes after we’ve told you about widespread reported problems at military bases around the country.

Last month, our Washington News Bureau spoke with two military spouses at Fort Belvoir in Virginia who were displaced because of mold and dead animals in the walls.

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“Home is supposed to be a safe place,” said Rachel Vidot, a military spouse. “Why aren’t we safe? Why aren’t we being taken care of?”

“There’s no oversight and there’s no one really willing right now to make them do the right thing,” said Breanna Bragg, a military spouse.

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