The Tenant Bill of Rights – What You Need to Know

February 26, 2020

This policy is a direct response to the many brave military families who shared their stories with us through our research, to members of Congress, to military leadership, and the media. It’s not easy to speak up, but here at MFAN, we know that data is powerful, and we appreciate the nearly 17,000 families who participated in our housing survey. Together, your collective voices moved the needle on this issue. We are excited to break down the Tenant Bill of Rights in this blog post. It is important to note that while this isn’t perfect, it is a step in the right direction. 

Here’s what you need to know about the Tenant Bill of Rights:

A little over a year ago, we heard from our network of military spouses that families were living in unsafe homes. The Ambushed at Home series, a Reuters special, brought this issue to a national stage through compelling stories from multiple families. As we learned more, we quickly realized that there was work to be done—we needed to understand how widespread this issue was, and that is why MFAN launched the Privatized Military Housing Survey. 

The structure of our team allows MFAN to be flexible and react through scientific research when needs arise. We made sure our data was shared widely, including through an interactive website Reuters designed using the data. It was important that the data lead to action. This Tenant Bill of Rights is an example of data-driven outcomes, and we are proud to have played a role. 

The Tenant Bill of Rights, released approximately nine months after we released our full privatized military housing data, attempts to provide these protections and will go into effect on May 1, 2020.

Here is what is included in the Tenant Bill of Rights
Please note that MFAN simplified language for ease of understanding, we encourage you to read the full Tenant Bill of Rights for greater detail.

  • The right to live in a house that meets health and environmental standards. The right to live in a home that has working appliances, utilities, and fixtures
  • The right to a clearly written lease with all regulations included
  • The right to have your lease (and any fees, rights and responsibilities, and what to do if you have a dispute) explained to you in plain language
  • The right to have time to prepare and be there for move-in and move-out inspections
  • The right to report problems with your housing without fear of retaliation
  • The right to access an advocate or an attorney for dispute resolution 
  • The right to services from appropriately trained, responsive, and courteous maintenance staff
  • The right to have accessible, easy to use, honest and responsive communications with maintenance staff
  • The right to have an electronic work order that you can use to track progress
  • The right to prompt repairs, including the right to be informed of the required time frame when you submit a maintenance request, and prompt relocation at no cost if your home is not habitable
  • The right to receive military legal assistance for disputes with the property management company
  • The right to have advanced notice before the landlord, housing staff, or chain of command enters your home
  • The right to not pay non-refundable fees or to have rent credits arbitrarily held
  • The right to expect forms and processes will be the same across all installations

Again, this is a paraphrased version of the Tenant Bill of Rights – to read the complete language in the press release, please visit this link.

This is what isn’t included (yet):

The final three rights proposed still need to be worked out. These protections, the right to view maintenance records and history, a dispute resolution process, and the right to withhold rent are not included in the current policy. We will continue to hear from families, share data with those in decision-making roles, and use our megaphone to reinforce the need for these provisions. 

The Tenant Bill of Rights is an important step toward ensuring military families who reside in privatized housing have access to quality, safe, and well-maintained homes in military housing communities. It’s important not to forget that 70% of military families reside off base, and they also need support in ensuring that their housing is safe, affordable, and accessible. The Military Housing Roundtable, launched by MFAN this month, will continue to work on housing issues, both on and off installation.

If your family is experiencing issues with military housing, please continue to engage with this issue. Change is only possible because we all worked together, made our voices heard, and participated in the process. Engage with your housing office, local military leadership, and the chain of command. We have the attention of military leadership, locally and nationally – continue to speak up and advocate for your family if their health and safety are at risk.