The men and women who bravely serve our nation and keep us safe shouldn't struggle to keep a roof over their heads. Unfortunately, veterans are among the most at risk to be homeless and tens of thousands of former service members live without shelter every day. Special federal, state and local programs and resources exist to help veterans and service members with issues related to housing.
The Attorney General's Office is working to help all Washington residents, including veterans and service members, who may be facing foreclosure. The office directs residents to legitimate, affordable help and has cracked down on mortgage fraud and deceptive offers to help those in need. More information about AGO initiatives related to mortgage and foreclosure issues is available online at www.atg.wa.gov/NationalMortgageSettlement, including resources to help avoid foreclosure, information on settlements and tips for identifying scams.
If you are facing foreclosure or a financial hardship in paying your mortgage and need assistance in exploring your options call a free certified housing counselor at (877) 894 -HOME (4663). We recommend you do this as soon as possible.
When a VA-guaranteed home loan becomes delinquent, the VA provides supplemental servicing assistance to help cure the default. Federal VA counselors may be able to help veterans and service members with VA-guaranteed loans avoid foreclosure through counseling and special financing arrangements. Depending on a veteran’s circumstances, the VA may be able to intercede with the loan servicer to pursue options -- such as repayment plans, forbearance, and loan modifications -- that allow a veteran or service member to keep his or her home. Call (877) 827-3702 to obtain help from a VA financial counselor.
Housing assistance for homeless Veterans and their families is available through several federal programs. If you are or know a veteran who is homeless or at risk of homelessness, connect him or her to VA services by calling the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at (877) 4AID-VET (424-3838). The VA has specialized programs available to get veterans facing homeless on their feet before they end up on the street.
The Attorney General's Office administers the state's Manufactured Housing Dispute Resolution Program, which is available to veterans, service members, and others who are mobile/manufactured home owners and are renting a space for their homes in a mobile/manufactured home park.
The Manufactured Housing Dispute Resolution Program enforces the Washington State Manufactured/Mobile Home Landlord Tenant Act, educates stakeholders, and fosters relationships between manufactured/mobile home community land owners and homeowners. The goal is to support better communication and promote mutual understanding between landlords and manufactured home owners. The office provides an equitable and low-cost option for manufactured home owners and landlords to resolve disputes concerning alleged violations of these rights.
If you rent your home you are covered by the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act (RCW 59.18). The Attorney General's Office does not have jurisdiction to enforce the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act, but the office does provide a list of resources and links for those seeking information regarding residential landlord/tenant issues. In addition, there are some specific issues related to veterans and service members.
Residential Lease Termination
Although in most cases you cannot change your mind and cancel when you sign a contract, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) allows active duty service members to terminate a residential lease if one of the following circumstances applies:
- The lease was entered into prior to active duty, when the service member is called to active duty for 180 days or more; or
- The lease was entered into during active duty, when a service member: (a) receives orders for a Permanent Change of Station, or (b) receives orders to deploy with a military unit for at least 90 days.
To terminate the lease, the service member must provide written notice of the termination to the landlord and include a copy of his or her military orders. Termination occurs 30 days after the next rental payment’s due date.
A sample residential lease termination letter is available in the AGO's Military and Veteran Legal Resource Guide.
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act protects active duty service members and their dependents from being evicted without a court order. To qualify for this protection:
- The home must be occupied or intended as a primary residence; and
- The monthly rent must be below the current rent ceiling ($3,329.84 in 2015; adjusted annually for inflation).
If an eviction action is filed, the SCRA gives service members or their dependents the right to request the court for a temporary stay of the proceedings for three months. Alternatively, the court may adjust the amount of your financial obligation to preserve the interests of all parties.
Washington's Law Against Discrimination prohibits discrimination on the basis of "honorably discharged veteran or military status." The prohibition against discrimination applies to housing, as well as to employment, public accommodation, and credit and lending. Under the law, "honorably discharged veteran or military status" is defined to include any person who is a veteran (as defined in RCW 41.04.007) or is an active or reserve member in any branch of the Armed Forces of the U.S., including the National Guard, Coast Guard, and Reserves.
The Washington State Human Rights Commission can enforce the Law Against Discrimination. The commission works to prevent and eliminate discrimination by investigating complaints and providing education and training opportunities. If you believe that you have been discriminated against because of your veteran or military status, you may file a complaint online or contact the Human Rights Commission.
Federal VA Home Loan Guaranty
The federal VA Home Loan Guaranty benefit helps service members, veterans, and National Guard and Reserve members become homeowners. There are a variety of home loan guaranty programs to help eligible applicants purchase a home or refinance an existing loan at a lower interest rate. More information about the VA Home Loan Guaranty is available at www.benefits.va.gov/homeloans.
Down payment assistance
The Washington State Housing Finance Commission’s House Key Veterans program provides down payment assistance of up to $10,000 for eligible Washington state veterans. Borrowers must attend a commission-sponsored homebuyer seminar and meet other eligibility requirements.
Property Tax Relief
In addition to property tax exemption and deferral programs for senior citizens and disabled persons, Washington state offers property tax assistance for widows and widowers of qualifying veterans. This grant program provides payment of all or a portion of the excess levies and regular property taxes due on your property. More information about eligibility requirements and how to apply for the program is available online via the Department of Revenue.
Federal grant programs exist for veterans and service members with service-connected disabilities to help fund necessary home modifications. These special grants can be used to purchase or construct an adapted home, or to modify an existing home to accommodate a disability. Visit the Housing Grants for Disabled Veterans website for more information.
The Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs serves veterans, and in some cases their spouses, surviving spouses, and Gold Star Parents, at the state Veterans Homes. The Veterans Homes are located in Orting, Retsil (near Port Orchard) and Spokane. Veterans Homes are Medicaid and Medicare certified and provide 24-hour nursing care, medical care, pharmacy services, and other supportive programs and services.