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New tenants bill of rights offers military families hope for better housing

Posted at 9:36 PM, Feb 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-26 23:25:08-05

FORT HOOD, TX — There's new hope for military families who find themselves living in conditions they consider unhealthy.

A new military housing bill of rights will soon go into effect, giving military families some of the same protections civilian renters get.

Military leaders drafted their renter's bill of rights last fall, but had to wait for Congress to pass a law authorizing it.

Now that Defense Secretary Mark Esper has signed it, families like that of Pamela Torres, who 25 News first met last month, hope for some relief.

"Military families need a safe place to live," she explained.

Torres says her former home seemed anything but safe. Water leaks flooded the carpet, and mold grew in the walls. She says she and her family had to move out.

"We're living in a hotel, so we have been displaced for a month from the last leak," Torres said.

Torres says this is the second leak in the past two months.

Now, she hopes a new tenant bill of rights signed by the Secretary of Defense will help them break away from a home where her son could not even breathe.

"I was coughing a lot. My throat itched. It was really bad," said her son.

The bill of rights mandates housing that meets health and environmental standards, with appliances and fixtures that work. It also mandates a standard of professional property management and legal assistance and the right to prompt repairs.

Only three items remain to be resolved with this bill of rights. Namely, the right to know the history of an apartment, a dispute resolution process, and when a renters can and cannot withhold rent.

"I think this goes a long way in shoring up the weaknesses," explained Attorney Josh Weaver, who likens the bill to the Texas property code, which he says gives renters stability.

”I think it will give a lot of piece of mind to the spouses and families of the people that are serving in our military," he said.

Torres hopes her new rights will help get her family out of the hotel and back in to a home, but she won't hold her breath.

"I just want to see that it's actually going to do something, not that it's just something on a piece of paper," she said.

The bill of rights should take full effect May 1, 2020. Until then, military families should continue working with their military housing office, base leaders and chain of command.

Fully military housing tenant bill of rights: