Whether it’s your first duty station or the last time you’ll ever have to PCS, if you intend on leasing housing on your installation there are several things our experts recommend keeping a keen eye out for upon receiving your offer of address.
You may be wondering about how many bedrooms your home will have, what the floor plan looks like, how much yard space you’ll have, and other questions regarding cosmetics. Your property manager or leasing consultant will provide you with this information as well as a walk-through before you accept a unit. We’ve broken down all of the additional items you should consider when leasing military housing and why they’re red flags!
Here’s what you need to know:
The first step when receiving an offer of an address on-post is to obtain the 7 year maintenance history report from the property manager. This report should give you a clear idea of what kind of work has been done on the home in the past 7 years, as well as any emergencies or major maintenance issues reported by previous residents.
A documented water leak on the maintenance history should prompt you to inquire further about the scope of repairs that were done to resolve the issue. Water leaks in high moisture areas of the home such as the kitchen, bathrooms, laundry room, and hot water heater closet are not uncommon in older military housing. Water damage left unrepaired, or unchecked for extended periods, can lead to issues like mold growth in the home.
While there is no specific legal standard or EPA regulatory guideline surrounding mold, it can still pose a health hazard and should be prevented by both the property owner and the tenant.
There are several types of mold, most of which can lead to allergy-like symptoms or chronic illness if a person is exposed over a long period. Babies and young children are especially more at risk to develop reactionary symptoms if exposed to mold.
If a water leak or several water leaks appear on the maintenance history, ask your property manager for the details of the repairs completed:
Who completed the water restoration services?
Was the contractor IICRC (Institute of Inspection, Cleaning, and Restoration) certified?
If the water damage was extensive and required structural repairs to the home, ask what areas have been completely replaced during the restoration. Look in, or ask to see pictures of, areas underneath sinks, inside dishwashers and refrigerators, and if you’re doing an in-person walk-through be sure to turn on all faucets to check that they run and drain properly.
As with water leaks, should you see notes specifically about plumbing emergencies and plumbing work done to the house this is also a good indication to inquire further.
You may also want to flush each of the toilets in the home during your walk-through.
Ask when the last time the toilet gasket was replaced.
A new wax ring should be replaced any time a toilet is removed and put back in place, such as during flooring installations. The wax seal prevents water from leaking when it passes to the drain pipe, and is also a protective barrier from sewer gas.
If you see HVAC repairs or emergencies documented on the work order history be sure to question the nature of the issue.
Ask how old your HVAC unit is and when it may be due for an upgrade.
When was the last time filters were changed?
High humidity built up due to an inefficient HVAC unit may also lead to mold problems in the home. Additionally, ducts that are not connected or contain holes can cause dust and debris, or asbestos insulation, to fly through the home directly into your family’s air supply. Wiring should also be checked upon walk through inspection, as this can be a fire hazard or the cause of a gas leak.
A thorough home inspection should check if your HVAC unit is running safely and efficiently.
This notation is an immediate indication to ask further questions. LHS inspections notated on maintenance history may pertain to issues such as mold, exposed lead-based paint, exposed asbestos, gas leaks, fire hazards, and more. You should ask: When was the issue first reported? What repairs were necessary to fix it?
Who was contracted to complete the repairs and what were their certifications?
The more information you can gather about a unit’s history the better informed you will be on its safety and habitability. Older homes may have more extensive repairs and renovations that have been completed throughout their lifetime. Which brings us to the next red flag regarding homes as old as or older than 1978...
Ask your property manager how old the home is.
Request lead and asbestos hazard maps from your property manager.
Asbestos in older homes can typically be found in vinyl floor tiles and flooring adhesives, wall and attic insulation, roofing, and pipes.
1978 is the key year you will want to look out for in regard to lead-based paint hazards. This information should be disclosed to you in your lease with an addendum for you to sign in acknowledgement. This means that you acknowledge the home was built pre-1978, before the federal regulations banning the use of lead-based paint, it may still be present if it has been encapsulated.
Abatement means the lead-based paint was permanently removed.
Encapsulation means that it was safely contained with sealants that prevent lead dust exposure to the environment, but the original lead-based paint is still present underneath these layers.
If there were structural repairs made in the pre-1978 built home that cut into the drywall, or repairs were made around original window sills, ask the property manager if the structural repairs done were considered an RRP activity.
RRP stands for the EPA’s Renovation, Repair, and Painting rule for work that can potentially disturb and expose lead-based paint.
Such repairs would be activities like cutting into the original drywall, replacing the windows, or sanding.
Any contractor who performs this work would have a corresponding RRP certification number and should have the proper training by providers that are EPA approved.
You may also ask how old the windows are to get an idea of how long it has been since the originals may have been replaced.
The topic of window safety brings us to our sixth military housing red flag.
If the home has more than one story, take a good look at the windows on the above ground floors.
If the sill sits less than 42” from the floor, this is a red flag. Ask the property manager if window guards have been installed.
Guard bars and child safety screens are necessary for preventing small children from falling from lethal heights. If the home has hazardous windows and does not have these installed, be sure to request this alteration in your agreement before signing the lease.
Remember, window falls are completely preventable. Your property manager should easily provide the necessary guards to make windows safe.
Now you know 6 major red flags to look for on a maintenance history report in privatized military housing.
Additional visual things you may want to ask about or look for during a walk-though:
Any trip hazards in the flooring.
If the home has fire and carbon monoxide detectors.
When was the last time outlets were replaced?
May you have a better sense of how to read your 7 year maintenance history report and how to communicate concerns to your property manager before signing a lease! Our advocate team are experts in all of these topics and can help you voice your concerns to your housing office.
If you are already living on installation and any of these issues outlined in this post are a concern to you, you can request an advocate here.
Together we can work toward a better quality of living in privatized military housing. Knowledge, education, and community are what drive us here at AFHA in our effort to advocate for safe and habitable housing for all service members and their families. Readiness starts with a safe home.