I-TEAM: Explaining the safety behind the Tenant Bill of Rights

Published: Apr. 27, 2021 at 9:09 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 27, 2021 at 9:18 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The clock is ticking for companies that handle military housing to make good on their promise to lawmakers and on their promise to our men and women in uniform. It’s an update to the I-Team investigation we first brought you last week.

With five requirements down, just three to go, the company in charge of military housing at Fort Gordon tells the I-Team it should be finished soon. They are private companies acting as landlords for the military. Balfour Beatty happens to be Fort Gordon’s landlord and when the I-Team started uncovering problems with Balfour Beatty homes some of the same problems were popping up with other military landlords, too.

Congress got involved and the Tenant Bill of Rights was born. It was missing several requirements when it went into effect last spring. Later that summer, Colonel Shaw Pick took over as Fort Gordon’s Garrison Commander.

“What became clear to me very early in my tenure was we’ve got to get right with the residents that are in the houses we have now. And we got to earn their trust. And in some cases, we’ve got to win it back,” he said.

Fast forward 10 months and the landlords,14 private companies in all, still haven’t met three of Congress’ demands:

- A standard lease all companies, or landlords use

- A standard plan all companies use to handle disputes.

- Seven years of maintenance records.

“They sound like relatively simple things, but is it more complicated and having to work with other private companies?” I asked.

“Yeah, Meredith, there’s been a bit of that. I mean, it’s...you’ve heard the adage, trying to herd cats on some cases, so there’s a lot of project owners in the industry,” Rick Taylor said.

Taylor is the man in charge of all of Balfour Beatty’s military homes. He was in Pennsylvania when he sat down with the I-Team.

“You say it’s been like herding cats, because I’ve had some people say, a universal lease, how hard can that be?” I asked.

“Prior to this, you know, our leases were typically about 14 to 15 pages. The outcome of this universal lease is putting that page down to about 50 to 54 pages, so it’s going to be far more complex,” Taylor said.

That’s because landlord–tenant laws are different from state to state and a one-size-fits-all lease has to follow all of them. Taylor says that’s not easy but they are on track to have everything done by June 1. And you can bet the I-Team will be watching.

This summer, crews are set to break ground on 76 new homes, and here is what the two-story complexes look like each home has four bedrooms. There are also single-story versions that are fully wheelchair accessible. Renovations are planned for existing homes where they’re basically gutting them and starting from scratch.

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