By Sonya Murdock
Government housing is considered one of the benefits of military life, but anyone who's lived on post can testify that this boon can sometimes be a bane. PCS time is a good example.
As if moving isn't stressful enough, clearing quarters can add one more headache to a military family's life. Just the thought of facing an inspector from the housing office can strike fear in even the bravest of soldiers. But for those who face yet another housing inspection this PCS season, here are a few ways to get a "go" on the first walk-thru.
1. Contact your housing office as soon as you have arranged your moving date with the transportation office. Make sure you understand what is required of you before inspectors will allow you to depart. The housing representative should provide you with a checklist to follow, as well as schedule an inspection date for your quarters.
2. Make sure your home is clean before it is inspected. You usually have three options: clean the quarters yourself, hire someone to clean them for you or use the cleaning service contracted by your housing office (in which case, you can show the inspector a paid receipt for cleaning even if your unit is still dirty on inspection day).
3. Go through each room of the house with a minimalist approach. Ask yourself, "What items are simply decorative?" and "What can I live without for a week or two?" Here are some ideas:
Remove any window treatments and wall hangings that weren't already there when you walked in the front door for the first time. Be sure to check with your local housing office on their nail hole policy. You may be required to Spackle all the holes in the walls and window frames before you move.
Begin removing your own light fixtures, ceiling fans and carpet remnants early, and replace them with the government-issued décor before time gets tight. Besides, the packers may forget to box them up in the rush if you don't already have them disassembled when they arrive. This also includes personally owned items such as portable dishwashers, spare refrigerators and other appliances.
4. Leave your quarters as you found them. If it wasn't there when you moved in, you have to take it with you! All those weekend warrior projects must be undone before the inspector will allow you to pass "go" and collect a hundred dollars (or at least turn in your keys and hit the highway). TIP: Take a photo of your housing when you first move in so that you have a clear record of what it looked like.
The wall color should be uniform throughout your unit. That means no sheetrock damage from wallpaper that you ripped down or crown molding you tore down. And forget trying to outsmart the inspector. Be assured he has seen every trick in the book, from painting over wallpaper instead of removing it to filling in nail holes with white toothpaste.
Dismantle fences, sheds and playground equipment before the packers arrive so that you have time to repair the yard by filling holes and reseeding.
Return your yard to its original status, free of flowers, shrubs or other plantings you added while living there. Again, reseeding may be required. Most installations supply grass seed at their self-help stores. And remember, carriers will not move live plants, so if you choose to keep them you'll be stuck hauling them in the backseat of your car.
5. Remove any household trash, yard debris, wood and other items from the property. The inspector won't clear you to leave base without first disposing of any unwanted personal property indoors and out. Be sure to:
Check your garage or carport, attic and basement spaces, any storage sheds and yard areas.
Share unwanted items with neighbors, donate to Goodwill, or have a yard sale. Click here for tips on having a successful garage sale. Many military installations also have post-wide yard sales in the fall and spring.
6. Double-check behind the movers to ensure that all your household goods were packed and loaded on the truck. Your car may not accommodate the bike that was left behind, and the inspector won't allow you to leave it in the garage either.
7. Mow the yard and take care of any other landscape duties before the movers arrive, so that you have time to drain the liquids (water, gas, oil) from power tools and equipment. If you forgot to mow before the moving truck left with your lawn equipment, don't panic. The self-help stores on most installations have lawn mowers and other tools you'll need to pass inspection.
8. If you are living in your empty quarters for a day or two after the movers have left, make sure you have moved out all of your personal belongings and cleaned up after yourself before the inspector arrives on inspection day. Don't forget to return any items borrowed from the family center's lending closet. And don't plan on camping out in the vacant house once you've passed inspection. You are required to turn in your keys as soon as you've cleared quarters.
9. Have your phone lines disconnected and cable TV boxes returned before vacating. The housing office will not store cable boxes for pick-up by cable company representatives. Nor will the government foot the bill on any outstanding phone bills that arrive after you have left, which brings us to....
10. Don't forget to forward your mail! The government won't hold onto mail delivered to your old quarters or forward it to your new address. Stop newspaper delivery for the same reason.
Finally, it's safe to say your inspector is not "out to get you." He's just doing his job and ensuring that the next family enjoys these quarters as much as you did. But if you feel your inspector is being a little too persnickety, contact the housing office and speak with a housing representative. You have the right to request a second opinion.