Special to the Frontline

Graphic by Kevin Larson
Fort Stewart has joined over 36 other installations in implementing the full Tenant Bill of Rights for privatized military housing after several months of discussion among Army officials.

Army to enact final privatized housing Tenant Bill of Rights

Fort Stewart has joined over 36 other installations in implementing the full Tenant Bill of Rights for privatized military housing after several months of discussion among Army officials.

On May 1, 2020, then-Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark Esper signed the original bill of rights as “a promise we should have made back in the late ‘90s when the Army was laying the groundwork for private companies to take over military housing operations and upkeep.” Many installations eventually initiated 15 of 18 points, with the understanding that the final three would need to be ironed out by July 30.

A year later, Fort Stewart and many other installations have released the bill of rights containing all 18 points. One key item provides the glue for the entire bill of rights, according to U.S. Army Installation Management Command officials.

“It was all tied to coming up with common documents, and the common document was the universal lease,” said Connie Glenn, chief of G4 Housing Division, IMCOM. “The universal lease has been, or will be, implemented Army-wide to all privatization projects.”

By “universal lease,” Glenn explained that Soldier and their Families can expect to see many of the same terms on any lease, whether they are living at Fort Knox, Kentucky, or Fort Wainwright, Alaska. There will be exceptions, however.

“There are some variances to that because these are private companies and as such, those private companies are bound by state and local laws as well,” said Glenn. “There are some specifics that each individual project will have to look at.”

An important decision point was how the dispute resolution process will specifically be handled. Because much of the bill of rights focuses on tenants receiving a residence “that meets applicable health and environmental standards,” some of the steps for tenants and managers resolving issues satisfactorily have required some additional discussion.

What has come out of the discussion is a two-step process: informal and formal.

“The informal is really the Army chain of command trying to resolve issues rapidly at the lowest possible level,” said Glenn. “This leverages the Garrison commander’s leadership and proximity, and an outreach ability to the unit chain of command, the tenant and the local partner.”

A dispute can be wide-ranging, according to Glenn.

“It can be, ‘I don’t like the response time for my maintenance call,’ or ‘I think they damaged my household goods when they were moving it to do a maintenane call,’” said Glenn. “If, however, at the end of that informal dispute resolution things are not resolved to everybody’s liking, the tenant can then initiate a formal resolution.”

This process is open only to military tenants, spouses and dependents, Glenn said.

A right found in the document that requires some explanation is Point 17: “Rent segregation.” Glenn said tenants who feel they have been negatively impacted by an unfulfilled work order can request a portion of their rent money be withheld for up to 60 days, if necessary, to encourage the housing management company to resolve the issue.

This doesn’t mean that tenants can stop paying their rent.

“Instead of the money going into accounts receivable, they set that money aside, and they await that final disposition,” said Glenn. “[Tenants] should continue to pay their rent and let the process work its way out.”

For the Directorate of Public Works Housing Branch  on Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield, the addition of the last set of rights means that Soldiers and their Families will gain a better understanding of the housing process from installation to installation thanks to the addition of the universal lease.

“The Tenant Bill of Rights is designed to provide a common ground for Soldiers and Families in regards to housing,” Doug Delzeith, DPW Housing Branch manager said.  “To clarify, this means that Soldiers and their Families will experience a standardized documents process that will enhance their quality of life regardless of where they are stationed.”

To view a complete listing of the Tenant Bill of Rights visit home.army.mil/stewart/index.php/my-fort/newcomers-1/housing.

Editors note: Eric Pilgrim contributed to this story.