What to expect when the tenant bill of rights takes effect

May 28, 2021

Residents who live in military housing across the nation will soon be afforded new protections under the U.S. Department of Defense’s Tenant Bill of Rights beginning June 1, 2021.

What is the tenant bill of rights?

In 2019, MFAN launched a survey to understand the experiences of military families living in privatized military housing. The response we received was something we never could have anticipated—nearly 17,000 families responded in one week. We learned of families living in poor conditions, and since then, the spotlight has been on military housing.

Overall, it became evident that those in leadership roles did not have a firm understanding of the condition of homes. There were inconsistencies in quality, experience, and communication. In 2020, the Department of Defense and federal government publicly stated that work must be done to provide uniformity, present clear expectations, and allow for accountability. Tenants have basic rights which must be honored by those who provide and maintain military housing facilities, and there are responsibilities of military families who reside in housing, that must also be upheld.

As part of the National Defense Authorization Act, the solution became known as the Military Housing Privatization Initiative Tenant Bill of Rights, a document outlining 18 rights of service members and families who live in privatized military housing. Military families are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the Tenant Bill of Rights and Tenant Responsibilities.

Where do things currently stand?

Fifteen provisions were passed and took effect in May 2020 as a reform aimed primarily at tackling health and safety hazards and improving accountability between parties.

The remaining three provisions are slated to go into effect on June 1. These new provisions promise to give military tenants a process for solving disputes with landlords; the ability to withhold rent or Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) payments during a dispute resolution; and access to seven years of maintenance history on their home.

It is worth noting that the work done to get to this point is remarkable. Military families who spoke up should feel proud. And, praise must be given where deserved: we are grateful that military families have been heard by the government, housing companies, and other key stakeholders.

In summary, the three remaining provisions – dispute resolution process, ability to withhold rent during a dispute resolution, and access to seven-year maintenance history – will be in full effect on June 1. There is still work happening behind the scenes to deliver this plan. For example, not all military housing residents will have access to the universal lease on June 1. This process is being rolled out state by state. Many military families can expect to hear specifics from their housing provider in the coming weeks.

What are the key takeaways for my family?

We encourage military families to understand their rights.

The tenant bill of rights offers some welcomed housing condition guidelines and will give tenants clear rights, consistency, and transparent expectations. This should make a significant difference for military families, especially because we move so frequently.

There is still work to be done to enhance military housing, but the tenant bill of rights commits military leadership to higher housing standards and makes fair treatment for military renters a top priority. It is a positive step forward in protecting military families’ living conditions, rebalancing the power structure, and allowing military families to share in determinations about the health and safety of their homes.