Military Housing

Everything You Need to Know About Military Housing

July 14, 2023

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Military Housing Guide

Whether you’re a military tenant or a landlord who rents to military tenants, there are certain things you need to know about military housing.  

In this article, we’re going to cover tips, key information, laws that you need to know, and more. 

Housing Choices for Service Members 

On-base housing, off-base housing, privatized military housing, barracks, and government-owned military installations are the main options military personnel should be aware of when considering housing. 

Single or unaccompanied service members can choose to live in barracks (the main on-base housing option), which are rent-free but may require shared rooms or bathrooms. When it’s government owned, the Department of Defense owns and manages the property. Rather than receiving the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH), the service member simply doesn’t pay rent. Some branches require single service members below certain ranks to live in barracks. 

On-base privatized housing, on the other hand, is an arrangement wherein the management and operation of military housing is contracted out to private companies. This public-private partnership model allows the military to keep ownership of the land while the private companies take care of construction, maintenance, and management. 

Government-owned military installations (when talking about housing) are military housing facilities owned and managed by the government. These facilities are typically located in civilian communities close to military bases. 

Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) 

In the last section, we mentioned BAH. What is BAH, though? Essentially, it’s a housing stipend (e.g., allowance) for service members typically utilized for rent payments. 

There are several kinds of BAH: 

  • BAH: This allowance helps military members offset the cost of housing when they don’t receive government-provided housing. 
  • Partial BAH: This version helps military members without dependents who live in government quarters with a partial allowance. 
  • BAH-Diff: This allowance is for members who are assigned to single quarters but receive BAH to pay child support. Military members aren’t entitled to this allowance if the monthly rate of child support is less than the BAH-Diff amount. 
  • BAH Reserve Component/Transit / BAH Type II: This allowance applies to members of the Reserve or Guard who are active for fewer than 30 days. It also extends to members who are in transit from a duty location with no former BAH rate (I.e., overseas). BAH II is a fixed rate based on the national average for housing and doesn’t differ by location. 
  • Overseas Housing Allowance: This allowance is only available to members stationed out of the country or in United States protectorates. 

Eligibility is fairly straightforward. Every service member assigned to permanent duty within the 50 States in the U.S. who doesn’t have government housing is eligible. The figure each service member receives considers rank, dependency status, and permanent duty station Zip code. 

The Pros and Cons of Renting to Military Tenants 

BAH is one of the pros of renting to military tenants. It typically ensures military members can pay rent on time and in full. This is obviously great for any landlord because it leads to reliable income. 

Another plus of renting to military tenants is that they often possess a strong work ethic and live organized lives. The military is tough mentally and physically. To survive, you typically need mental fortitude and commitment despite demanding physical obstacles. This often translates into tenants that pay rent on time and take great care of your property.  

A third benefit of renting to military tenants arises if your rental is in a rural location. Rentals in rural areas can be difficult to fill because they aren’t always close to grocery stores, gyms, and other popular facilities. Military bases, though, are usually in rural areas, so military tenants can help fill your rental quickly. 

Fourth, the Rental Partnership Program (RPP) connects landlords with military tenants and can help you fill vacancies. Benefits of this program include: 

  • The ability to market your rental on applicable RPP websites, so that service members looking for housing can easily find your offering 
  • The knowledge that any active-duty tenant must have permanent orders to stay in your area throughout the applicable lease period of the RPP property 
  • The assurance that rent can be paid using applicable funds given to service members for off-base housing 
  • Housing inspected by HSC’s and pre-approved as appropriate and affordable for service members 
  • Discount of 5% on rental rates 
  • Waived of lowered security deposit 
  • No administrative fee and application fee cannot exceed $50 
  • Rent payment by allotment or automatic payment 
  • Lease cannot be denied to a service member because of a negative credit check 

Renting to military tenants does have potential downsides as well, though. Firstly, they often move without much notice. And the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) protects them from repercussions commonly associated with breaking leases early.  

No landlord wants this kind of uncertainty. However, programs like the RPP try to address this issue and others.  

Another disadvantage of renting to military members is that they may lead to high tenant turnover costs. These costs can add up quickly as a landlord.  

After you’ve weighed your options and decide whether to rent to military tenants, you may wonder if you can refuse them due to their military status. It all depends on local and state laws. Military status isn’t a protected class according to the Fair Housing Act, so check your state and local laws before you take action. 

Marketing to Military Renters 

If you decide to rent to military tenants after considering the pros and cons, a key part of your business is now understanding how to market to this demographic.  

Here are several ideas to consider: 

  • Highlight Nearby Military Bases: Military tenants typically want to live close to wherever they’re assigned. Location can be make or break for their housing decision. 
  • Offer Furnished Housing: Military tenants must be ready to move quickly and don’t always stay in one place for long. Thus, it can be advantageous to furnish your rentals. Most military tenants will pay a little more to avoid buying dressers or a kitchen table for a shorter stay. 
  • Offer a Military Discount: A discount shows support for the military and makes your rental more competitive. Military renters are often looking for good prices and places they can move into efficiently. 
  • List with Rental Organizations Experienced in Military Housing: A lot of established rental companies can help you market your rental to service members. A good rental organization can make your life easier and make your property more appealing to potential tenants. 
  • Take Appealing Photos of Your Property: While this marketing tip isn’t as military-specific, it’s still crucial. One incredibly key component of marketing a property is taking excellent pictures that give a real idea of the property. 

The Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act (SCRA) 

The SCRA is an extremely important law that provides legal and financial protections for active service members. 

The SCRA postpones or suspends specific civil obligations to enable service members to devote their full attention to duty and relieve stress on their families. These are the most common forms of protection the Act covers that might impact landlords: 

  • Mortgage Relief 
  • Termination of Leases 
  • Eviction Protections 
  • Stay of Proceedings 
  • Reopening Default Judgments  
  • Enforcement of Storage Liens 

The SCRA applies to all active-duty service members, reservists, and National Guard members on active duty.  

It’s key to mention that the Supreme Court ruled the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act protections must be read with “an eye friendly to those who dropped their affairs to answer their country’s call.” Thus, this Act means protections often favor active service members. 

The Military Housing Privatization Initiative (MHPI) 

Another program that is important for landlords to understand is the MHPI. The United States Department of Defense (DoD) implemented this program to address the inadequate condition of military housing and provide improved living conditions for military service members and their families. The initiative was established in response to concerns about the deteriorating state of on-base housing. 

The key elements of this program include: 

  • Long-Term Contracts: Private housing developers participating in the initiative can secure long-term contracts with the military. These contracts typically span several decades, often around 50 years, providing stability and a predictable revenue stream for the developer.  
  • Financial Incentives: The government offers financial incentives to private housing developers to encourage their participation in this initiative. These incentives often materialize as rental subsidies, tax benefits, loan guarantees, or other financial arrangements.  
  • Development and Renovation: Private housing developers are responsible for the construction or renovation of military housing units.  
  • Property Management: Once the housing units are developed or renovated, private housing developers assume the day-to-day management responsibilities.  
  • Revenue Sharing: As part of the partnership agreement, private housing developers usually receive a share of the rental income generated from the military housing units. The specific revenue-sharing split varies depending on the terms negotiated between the developer and the military. 
  • Quality Assurance: Private housing developers are contractually obligated to maintain the quality and condition of the military housing units.  
  • Collaboration with the Military: Private housing developers work with the military authorities to align their operations with the needs of the military community. 

Military Housing Rental Software 

If you want to gain an advantage as a landlord in this space, military housing rental software is a wise investment. Learning how to use marketing tools, application and screening tools, rent collection tools, and communication tools within your chose platform can enhance your business and save you valuable time.  

Evicting Military Tenants 

What if things go awry with your military tenants? Can you evict them? 

This topic is complex. As with civilian tenants, it’s something you want to avoid, if at all possible. And the SCRA protections make this process much more complicated than it is with civilians.  

The SCRA applies if a service member’s spouse, children, or other dependents live in the rental unit during a period of military service. A dependent is a person or persons the service member supported in the past 180 days by paying more than half of said person’s living costs. 

Here are the steps you need to follow for an eviction

  1. Visit https://app.servicememberscivilreliefact.com/register/ to conduct a service member lookup and check on the active-duty status of the tenant 
  1. Identify your tenant’s SCRA status 
  1. Notify the Court 

It’s important to note that most rules related to tenant-landlord relationships come from state and local laws. Thus, be sure you follow any applicable state and local laws. Avoid getting tunnel vision when it comes to the SCRA and accidentally overstepping local laws. 

Evictions involving military tenants aren’t always straightforward, so understand it could be a long process. Always do your best to prevent evictions and avoid them if you can. 

Conclusion 

Whether you’re a military tenant or a landlord who rents to military tenants, it’s important to understand the information we’ve covered in this article. This information provides a crucial foundation as you try to find housing or rent to military tenants.  

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