By James BrooksApril 21, 2019
Vicenza, ITALY (April 22, 2019) - Italy-based military service members and their families living in private, off-base housing are asked to complete the Overseas Housing Allowance (OHA) Utility Expenses Survey during May to better determine the allowance paid for utility and recurring maintenance costs.
The survey will be open May 1 through May 31. It's designed to collect utility and recurring maintenance expense data for calculating future overseas housing allowances.
"Service member participation definitely impacts the OHA rates here in Italy, based on the input received. New rates will be applied Italy-wide so this takes a concerted effort from all installations whether Army, Navy, or Air force to ensure good data. We have seen years where OHA rates went up based on results where there was an increase in costs," said USAG Italy Housing Division Officer Lewis Smith.
Who Should Participate
If you receive OHA and meet the following qualifications, you should participate in the survey:
• Have been stationed in the country, where this survey is being conducted, for at least 6 months
• Reside in privately leased quarters (not a homeowner or sharer)
• Receive an Overseas Housing Allowance
If you have participated in previous OHA surveys, the questions will be similar in scope.
The survey link is: www.defensetravel.dod.mil/site/ohaSurvey.cfm?ID=may-util
The deadline to complete the survey is close of business May 31.
Participating in the Survey
The survey takes approximately 20 minutes to complete and should be completed by the service member or the spouse--whoever has the best understanding or their respective housing expenses. A CAC card is not required to access the survey; however, the DOD ID number, which is located on the back of the CAC card is required.
Participation in this survey is voluntary. There is no penalty for not responding but poor participation could lead to OHA rate changes that don't reflect the reality of costs of living in Italy.
"There is always a risk that if the participation is low or personnel to not include all their expenses that rates could drop. This has happened in the past however; last year rates were increased slightly based on the strong participation which we also need this year," said Smith.
Before starting the survey, gather your bills, receipts, and/or records of utility and recurring maintenance expenses incurred within the last 12 months and compute a monthly average for each of these expenses.
"The easiest way is to add up the bills for each item and divide by 12 for the average monthly cost. Receipts are not required to be submitted so if they are not available an honest calculated amount should still be inserted," Smith added.
Completing the survey in one session is not necessary. You may save the survey, obtain additional information, and resume the survey at any time during the survey timeframe. Incomplete surveys cannot be used as this might result in underreporting of utility and recurring maintenance expenses. Allowance adjustments based on incomplete data could disadvantage Service members.
Responses are held in strictest confidence and not shared with any other office or agency.
When calculating costs, the following expenses SHOULD be included: Air filters; alarm monitoring fee; appliance repair; bottled drinking water; chimney sweep; coal; currency exchange fees for housing costs; electricity; firewood/pellets; heating oil; housing-related taxes; kerosene; landlord's maintenance fee; light bulbs; mold treatment; natural gas; pest control; plumbing; propane; renter's insurance; repair of permanent fixtures; running water; sewer; trash disposal; wear and tear; other housing-related expenses may be reported in the comments.
You should NOT include the following expenses in your survey: cable TV; internet; telephone bills; tuition; auto gasoline/diesel fuel; auto expenses; books; pet expenses; postage; road taxes; gifts; furniture; repairs to personally owned electrical equipment; maid service; yard/garden maintenance' any and all expenses not associated with the physical dwelling.
Report all your expenses in the currency in which you paid them. Do not convert costs. Most importantly, please use the comments section to provide explanations that will help the survey workers better understand your expenses.
Families having difficulties completing the survey or questions about what to include can call the housing division office at 0444-617950/617951; DSN: 637-7950/7951.