By Alexandra Shea
Fort Jackson Leader
Most Soldiers are familiar with the Garrison Housing Services Office on Fort Jackson. It is one of the first stops a Soldier will make when in-processing and out-processing the installation. What some may not know are the additional services available for those who choose to reside off-post or purchase a home in the local community.
“The Fort Jackson Housing Services Office is the first choice for information and support when Soldiers and Families, civilians and retirees relocate to the local community,” said Valerie Brown, HSO housing manager. “The goal is to ensure customers are well informed about housing in Columbia and the surrounding areas so their housing experience will be both pleasant and successful.”
Leon Terry, often referred to as the off-post housing guru by co-workers, assists Soldiers and their Family members with navigating leases for rental properties within Columbia, South Carolina. He can save Soldiers time, money and in most cases some sanity.
Recently, a Soldier needed to end their rental lease early. The leasing agent informed the Soldier and his Family they would need to pay $3,800 to terminate their lease early. Seeking help, the Soldier reached out to Terry who helped mediate and negotiate the end of the lease on the Soldier’s behalf.
“Terry immediately contacted the property manager to mediate on the Solder’s behalf,” Brown said. “After several phone calls, emails, and follow-ups with the property manager, the matter was resolved whereby the Soldier’s early termination fees were reduced to $1000. Terry was instrumental in saving the Soldier nearly $3,000.”
In another case, Terry helped a Soldier terminate a lease early due to unresolved mold and mildew issues. After the Soldier spoke with Terry and explained his the circumstances, Terry was able to mediate the lease termination quickly and resulted in zero penalty fees for the Soldier.
“It really makes me feel good helping these Soldiers,” Terry said. “It’s my job and I take pride in that.”
Terry, an Army retiree himself, has over 20 years experience navigating the local rental market. Through his vast network of legal resources specializing in South Carolina Resident and Tenant Law, Terry can offer services that include lease reviews, housing inspections and basic housing allowance submissions in addition to mediation using the most current information and law reform.
“The rental process is different from state to state and you have to know the South Carolina Resident and Tenant laws and the people your dealing with,” Terry said. “I work closely with Judge Advocate General, local attorneys and the South Carolina Bar. I consult with those professionals and legal experts.”
Terry also said building and maintaining relationships with local rental companies and property managers helps ensure the success of resolving tenant and landlord issues swiftly to the satisfaction of both parties.
“We are here to help the Soldier and build relationships with our local property managers,” Terry said. “You have to have those relationships to be successful.”
Terry said the housing office also offers a full service home buyers seminar. Through mutual partnerships with Army Community Service, local realtors and Veteran Affairs representatives, the home buying seminar offers attendees valuable information that could save thousands of dollars.
“We cover the whole spectrum of the home buying process and we prepare a packet for attendees so they will have that information to reference during the home buying process,” Terry said. “We also provided the latest information for available grants and programs. This valuable information can save a lot of money and time.”
Due to increased health and safety measures, the Housing Services Office is temporarily closed. For assistance with off-post housing or unaccompanied housing needs, contact Leon Terry at 751-5788 or Valerie Brown at 751-7566 or Tina Barnes at 751-7537.
“We take great pride in what we do for Soldiers, retirees and Department of Defense civilians,” Terry said. “We stand tall and ready to assist our men and women in uniform.”