WASHINGTON (WAVY) — The National Defense Authorization Act, the blueprint for defense spending and policy in the coming fiscal year, includes reforms in the process of how military families resolve disputes over living conditions in private housing.
It puts into writing the strongest protections yet for military families.
“These companies felt like these military families were their hostages, and they didn’t need to do anything for them,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Some of the reforms include withholding the basic housing allowance during disputes over living conditions; requiring the companies to pay for temporary relocation if a military family must move out for a health or environmental hazard, and more transparency for the work order system so families can track their requests.
“These companies would never tolerate in their commercial properties what they were tolerating in the military properties. That really infuriated me,” Kaine told reporters Thursday morning.
Jarl Bliss, CEO of Lincoln Military Housing, the largest provider in Hampton Roads, said Thursday his company “has implemented a range of strong new measures to improve service to military families and we are committed to the continued success of this program.”
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) visited Hampton Roads twice this spring, expressing his outrage about private housing.
Warner says the new regulations “will provide much-needed oversight and accountability over privatized housing companies and ensure servicemembers can feel safe in their own homes.”
Kaine says the chain of command needs to be more responsive too.
“Nobody enlisted in the military to be somebody’s tenant. The ultimate responsibility to them is from their leadership, so the leadership has to hold the housing companies accountable.”
Many of the families’ complaints involved mold, and Bliss says he has hired a third-party independent mold expert to audit the company’s policies and procedures.
Kaine says the full Senate will debate the bill next week and he expects it to become law.