18 November 2022
(Washington, DC) – Earlier this week, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) joined a bipartisan group of senators in sending a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin urging him to use all tools and authorities for his available to protect military families from private housing contractors who do not provide protections guaranteed by the military tenant’s bill of rights. Despite fiscal year (FY) 2020 requirements National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), five private military housing providers still fail to implement important rights for military families.
“Congress did not intend for military housing corporations’ compliance with the Tenant Act and other important provisions of the 2020 NDAA to be optional. Congress put mandates in place to protect military families, and DoD must use every tool at its disposal to enforce those mandates. That allowing the rights of military families to be subject to the whims of private military housing contractors creates an unacceptable level of inequality.” the senators wrote. “If these companies – Boyer Hill Military Housing, Burlington Capital Real Estate, JL Properties, Miller-Valentine Group and United Communities – continue to refuse to grant these rights, we urge the DoD to exercise its right to terminate these agreements.”
A recent report by the DoD Inspector General found that these five private military housing providers, which provide over 10,000 military family housing, still fail to implement key rights under DoD tenant rights, including providing service members and their families with their homes’ maintenance histories, the right to to enter into a dispute resolution process and the right to withhold basic housing benefit payments to the landlord while a dispute resolution process is ongoing.
“The NDAA – to help address the systemic failures of private landlords to respond to the needs of families and provide safe and sanitary housing – required military families who live in housing to be provided with maintenance histories for the housing they rent. , alternative dispute resolution processes, and the right to withhold payments to landlords during disputes. And when DoD failed to include these rights in its first draft of the tenant bill, Senate Armed Services Committee leaders made it clear on a bipartisan basis that they were not up for negotiation, noted that their exclusion created ‘blazing gaps’ and went ‘directly against the ministry’s and housing associations’ pledges that they would work to regain the trust of our military families,’” continued the senators.
The senators who signed the letter also sponsored Act on the Military Housing Preparedness Council, which would create a council with a mandate to guarantee the full implementation of tenant rights. The senators urge Secretary Austin to fully enforce the DoD lease and ask him to respond to a set of questions about DoD’s implementation and enforcement plans by December 14, 2022.
In addition to Shaheen, the letter is signed by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Jon Ossoff (D-GA).
The letter can be read in its entirety here.
Senator Shaheen has long spearheaded efforts in the Senate to support our military families. In the FY2022 government funding legislation, Shaheen successfully secured $3 million to implement her bipartisan legislation with Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) that improves the portability of military spouse business licenses and helps ease the burden faced by spouses if they are small business owners from having to constantly re-register their businesses as they move from state to state with their families. In addition, the funding legislation included $22 million for the Beyond Yellow Ribbon (BYR) program, which funds the New Hampshire National Guard’s Care Coordination Program. BYR programs provide outreach services to troops returning from deployment, including health care, marriage and financial counseling, substance abuse treatment and mental health services. In September, Shaheen introduced an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to establish the right of service members to access protected leave for abortion care and services. Previously, Shaheen introduced a bipartisan bill, the Service Members and Dependents Access to Contraception Act, to ensure that military families can access high-quality reproductive health care.