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What happens when quarters become suddenly uninhabitable?
The relationship between the Forest Service and employees who occupy Forest Service quarters is a normal landlord-tenant relationship. This relationship is clearly identified in the Office of Management and Budget's Circular A45, part 9.g. When something happens that renders Forest Service quarters suddenly uninhabitable, the Forest Service response is not much different than that of ordinary private landlords.
The following guidelines for those employees who are not required to live on a government compound are very general. Complicating circumstances may necessitate resolution of obligations and responsibilities on an individual case basis. Quarters managers should contact their Regional Quarters Officer as soon as possible after major quarters damage becomes evident.
When Forest Service employees are required to evacuate their quarters because a natural disaster such as a hurricane or wildfire is headed their way, they should go to shelters or to motels or homes of friends or relatives away from the potential disaster area, just as they would if they were renting from a private landlord. Their obligation to pay their rent does not cease while they are away from their rented homes during the evacuation.
As the landlord, the Forest Service has an obligation to maintain its quarters in safe, sanitary, neat, and attractive condition, and in good working order both inside and outside. The Forest Service must also provide 30 days notice before evicting a tenant. This means that if a structure is suddenly damaged (Optional link for FSweb users) to the extent that it doesn't meet these standards, the Forest Service can't just kick the renters out the next morning. The Forest Service is generally required to put the renters up somewhere else for up to 30 days, and the renters continue to pay rent during that time. If the rent is paid by payroll deduction it may take a little longer than 30 days to complete a pay period. The alternate quarters don't have to be exactly comparable to the damaged quarters. A family may be housed temporarily in a crew quarters building or a motel, for example.
As soon as possible, the Forest Service must decide whether it is economically feasible to repair the structure. Facility engineers can assess the damage and assist quarters managers and line officers in making that determination. Repairs may take longer than 30 days. If so, tenants may continue to pay their rent and remain in alternate quarters or elect to move their belongings out of the damaged structure and find other housing. If the repairs are going to take a very long time, the Forest Service will probably determine that it is not economically feasible to continue to offer alternate quarters, and the rental agreement may be canceled with 30 days notice. If the structure is beyond repair, the rental agreement may also be canceled with 30 days notice.
National Quarters Officer