By Anisa Peterson, USAG Schweinfurt Public AffairsJanuary 22, 2014
SCHWEINFURT, Germany (Jan. 21, 2014) -- The closure of the garrison here is approaching and service members and civilian employees living in private rental housing should act now to ensure a frictionless relocation.
To avoid delays and uncomfortable challenges the garrison's private rental housing office is the best assistant.
"Soldiers and families residing off post in private rentals need to check their contracts right now," said Housing Division Chief, Helga De Herrera. "Go through the contracts, read them, see if there is anything you don't understand and check with us ahead of time."
Every contract is different, De Herrera said, adding that some stipulate a 30-day notice while others require up to 90 days.
Not being able to find a copy of the contract is not a problem as the private rental housing office retains copies of all housing contracts arranged through the garrison's Army housing office.
Private rental housing refers to off-post housing owned by a private owner. Those living in private rental housing receive Basic Allowance for Housing, or BAH, and pay the rent directly to the owner.
"Success for us is to make sure the termination notice reaches the landlord in a timely manner," said Karin Jones, a Schweinfurt housing specialist, speaking on behalf of the housing office.
Termination notices must reach landlords, utilities companies and phone companies in a timely manner, and notices must be submitted in written form. German regulations prevent you from terminating via email or fax, so the termination notice must be sent via registered mail or delivered personally. It's important to keep the receipts, said Capt. Geoffrey Pariza, Schweinfurt's administrative law attorney.
Every contract is unique, but each provides information about specific clear-out standards. A PRH office counselor will assist you in reviewing the contract. If prompt action is required with landlords or utilities companies, the counselor will call immediately to clarify matters. The PRH office takes care of the administrative part of the termination.
Who fixes damages -- whether tenant or landlord -- depends on the contract. Damages should be solved by the costs-by-cause principle unless they are not caused by regular wear.
"Usually, if you break it, you pay for it. If it's normal wear and tear, it's the landlord," Jones said.
The PRH office can refer to local repair services if self-help is not an option. Disagreements with landlords can often be settled with negotiations. Assistance is offered also by the PRH office. If that is unsuccessful, the next step is the legal office.
Carina Vogel is Schweinfurt's legal officer. She works at the legal center at Conn Barracks. Her contract with the U.S. Army in Schweinfurt was recently extended until the end of June 2014.
"Ms. Vogel is our German attorney here. She is an expert with dealing with utilities companies and landlords," said Pariza, but advised tenants to always first consult with the housing office prior to going to the legal office.
Security deposits are often another issue. In many cases they are returned months after tenants have left. To avoid differences with landlords, you can request a pre-inspection at the PRH office up to 90 days prior to departure. Landlords have the right to keep security deposits in case of damages caused by the tenants.
And what about those pesky utility payments? Utility companies normally issue an annual bill at the end of the calendar year. Overpayments are returned while back payments need to be repaid by the tenant. But as a tenant, you may be long gone from Schweinfurt by the time you receive a bill or money back. How to resolve this is at the digression of the landlord. Again, says Jones, visit the housing office once you receive your orders.
"We'll help," said Jones. "We will assist you in filling out the termination notice to the landlord and assist in contacting the utility companies per phone."
Resources regarding the PRH office and the legal office will be available until the closure. After the closure, assistance is offered by the housing office at USAG Ansbach.
The housing office takes walk-ins from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and is closed on German and American holidays.
In individual cases, the Schweinfurt housing office can extend its office hours by appointment only to assist Soldiers and civilians terminating their private rental housing contracts.
To schedule an appointment, call 09721-96-6282/6363 or DSN 354-6282/6363.
[Editor's note: Anisa Peterson is a Schweinfurt volunteer and contributing writer/editor at the USAG Schweinfurt Public Affairs Office.]