15 FAM 200 
housing abroad program

15 FAM 210

policy and responsibilities

(CT:OBO-61;   11-07-2017)
(Office of Origin:  OBO)


15 FAM 211.1  Purposes and Authorities

(CT:OBO-61;   11-07-2017)

a. If U.S. citizen employees are assigned to a U.S. mission abroad under chief-of-mission (COM) authority, they may receive housing in U.S. Government-owned/-leased (GO/L) properties, or through the Living Quarters Allowance and Military Overseas Housing Allowance (LQA and OHA) programs.  The objective of the housing program is to provide safe and secure housing that meets the personal and professional requirements of employees, at a cost most advantageous to the U.S. Government.  For the purposes of this policy, adequate housing is defined as housing comparable to what an employee would occupy in the Washington, DC Metropolitan Area, with adjustments for family size and locality abroad.

b. Housing abroad policy and space standards are established pursuant to Section 156 of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, FY 1990 and 1991 (Public Law 101-246).  The Department of State manages the program, and delegates ultimate responsibility to the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO).  The objective of this decision was to ensure coherent, cost-effective management of this extensive worldwide program.

c.  The U.S. Government pools all its leased housing for the purpose of assignment, except designated and dedicated residences.  (See 15 FAM 231, Pooled Housing.)  Beginning in 2015, only furnished GO/L housing will be offered at furnished posts.  With the exception of posts where the landlords provide all furniture and appliances for all units, all furnished posts must have a furniture and appliance pool policy in place.  (See 6 FAH-5 H-512, Post Housing Pools.)

15 FAM 211.2  Scope and Applicability

(CT:OBO-61;   11-07-2017)

The policies and standards outlined in this subchapter apply to:

(1)  Employees of all agencies serving abroad who come under COM authority;

(2)  All U.S. Government-held property; and

(3)  Housing acquired under Living Quarters Allowance (LQA) and Overseas Housing Allowance (OHA) programs.

No other housing policy takes precedence over or alters these provisions.  Under its independent legislative authorities, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) uses this interagency policy to manage its properties.  15 FAM 250 and 15 FAM 260 contain the procedures to implement these regulations.  Direct all questions or comments to the Directorate for Planning and Real Estate, Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO/PRE), or to the Overseas Management Division, Bureau for Management, USAID/Washington (USAID/W - M/MS/OMD).


15 FAM 212.1  General

(CT:OBO-61;   11-07-2017)

The COM or principal officer (PO) is ultimately responsible for ensuring the effective management of the post housing program.  The Single Real Property Manager (SRPM) manages all aspects of the real property program—including the housing program—to ensure compliance with policies and regulations.  (See 15 FAM 113.)

15 FAM 212.2  Interagency Housing Board (IAHB)

(CT:OBO-61;   11-07-2017)

Both Washington, DC and post have an established Interagency Housing Board (IAHB), which ensures the fair and equitable treatment of all employees within the parameters of the housing policy, and appropriately considers the varied requirements of all agencies when making decisions.

15 FAM 212.2-1  Washington Interagency Housing Board (IAHB)

(CT:OBO-61;   11-07-2017)

The Washington IAHB consists of representatives from agencies with employees assigned to U.S. missions abroad, and is chaired by the Director of the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO).  OBO consults with the Board to form policies regarding the housing program abroad, residential space criteria, and locality adjustment factors.  The Washington IAHB may also adjudicate appeals submitted by member agencies on specific housing-related issues not resolvable at post.

15 FAM 212.2-2  Post Interagency Housing Board (IAHB)

15 FAM 212.2-2(A)  Establishment

(CT:OBO-61;   11-07-2017)

The COM/PO establishes an IAHB at every post with three or more U.S. Government agencies.  Post’s IAHB functions as an independent working group and reports to the COM/PO through the SRPM.  The board implements housing policies in compliance with the regulations and standards set forth in 15 FAM 200.

15 FAM 212.2-2(B)  Board Composition

(CT:OBO-61;   11-07-2017)

a. General:  The IAHB consists of personnel representing all U.S. Government agencies at post, and should include the range of personnel assigned, i.e., large and small agencies, senior and junior personnel, and families and singles.  Agencies’ representation on the board should reflect their respective number of U.S. personnel at post.  Larger agencies may have one permanent representative on the board; smaller agencies may represent each other on a rotating basis, may be represented by a larger agency, or may be represented in some other manner (as determined by the COM/PO and the principal representatives of the agencies concerned).

b. Size:  The COM/PO determines the total number of representatives; however, the recommended maximum size is ten.

c.  Membership:  The principal representatives of the agencies at post designate the individual members.  The board should include the regional security officer (RSO) to address housing security issues, and the post occupational safety and health officer (POSHO) to address residential housing health, safety, and POSHO-certification issues related to housing.  Both the RSO and the POSHO are ex officio, nonvoting members.  The COM/PO may assign ad hoc or at-large voting members to the board to represent various points of view that might otherwise be underrepresented, regardless of the parent agency affiliation (office management specialists (OMSs), entry-level officers (ELOs), etc.).  The board may include representatives from the community liaison office (CLO), the general services office (GSO), and the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) as ex officio, nonvoting members.

d. State representation:  An officer other than the management counselor/officer, the general services oOfficer(s), and any employee under their direct supervision, will represent the Department of State.  The SRPM serves on the board as an ex officio member, and provides guidance on interpretation and application of policies and regulations, and makes recommendations to the post IAHB.

e. Chairperson:  Post’s IAHB chair should rotate every 12 months among senior members of the agencies represented on the board.  The COM/PO and deputy  chief of mission (DCM) must not be members of the board; these individuals serve in the direct line of appeal if an employee disagrees with a board decision.

f.  Meetings:  Post’s IAHB should meet as often as necessary to fulfill its responsibilities, but at least monthly for general coordination.

15 FAM 212.2-2(C)  Post IAHB Responsibilities

(CT:OBO-61;   11-07-2017)

a. Under the SRPM’s guidance, post’s IAHB oversees the implementation of the housing policy and standards of the 15 FAM, and ensures they are equitably applied to employees of all agencies.  Because of its representative composition and familiarity with local housing conditions, post’s IAHB is the best vehicle to administer housing policy.  Post’s IAHB should exercise its best collective judgment to reconcile employees’ housing requirements with the intent of U.S. Government regulations and to make decisions that are in the best interests of the U.S. Government.

b. Specific IAHB responsibilities are to:

(1)  Apply the standards and procedures outlined in this policy to post’s housing program;

(2)  Regularly review the existing U.S. Government-held housing, ensuring retention of appropriate and cost-effective housing in the post housing pool.  Periodic market surveys must support these reviews;

(3)  Establish (in consultation with OBO/PRE/RPL/PM) rental control ceilings for housing in each category if post is not in the rental benchmark program;

(4)  Approve housing assignments;

(5)  Review residential property leases, as needed;

(6)  Review Living Quarters Allowance/Overseas Housing Allowance (LQA/OHA) requests for residential quarters exceeding the space standards or the established rental benchmark/rental control ceiling;

(7)  Review post’s policy on the viability of LQA/OHA to ensure it is accurate and reflects local conditions (see 6 FAH-5 H-513.2-3);

(8)  Identify items to be included in the post furniture, furnishings, appliances, and equipment (FFA&E) pool (per 6 FAH-5 H-513.2-2);

(9)  Review the conditions at post that determine ranking on the locality index.  When a change is necessary, the IAHB should submit a justification memorandum to the COM/PO through the SRPM.  If the COM/PO concurs, submit the request to OBO for review and approval;

(10) Assist the SRPM with the preparation of, and make revisions to, a post housing guidebook.  The guidebook defines the housing policy and outlines responsibilities for occupants of U.S. Government-held housing and for recipients of LQAs.  This guidebook should include, but is not limited to:

(a)  Guidelines on space authorizations and rental benchmark/rental control ceilings;

(b)  An interagency-approved list of provided furniture, furnishings, and equipment (FF&E) in U.S. Government-furnished residential quarters;

(c)  Guidelines for short-term loan of U.S. Government property for personal or official use; and

(d)  Tenant responsibilities when occupying U.S. Government-held quarters, e.g., the condition of quarters upon departure and liabilities for damage.

15 FAM 212.3  Post Interagency Housing Board (IAHB) Records

(CT:OBO-61;   11-07-2017)

Post’s IAHB must maintain written records of its meetings, including justifications for decisions.  In particular, post must document one-time exceptions to policies, procedures, or regulations and keep the records on file at post for 3 years (such as housing assignments larger than warranted by family size and tier).  Specifically, the IAHB must produce and transmit written justification to the SRPM for each assignment that:

(1)  Exceeds 15 FAM 200 guidelines for space; and/or

(2)  Exceeds the rental benchmark (or the internally-established rental control ceiling for posts not in the Rental Benchmark Program) for rank and family size; and/or

(3)  Would result in a unit being vacant for more than 90 days, i.e., not occupied by a U.S. direct-hire (USDH) officer to which the unit is permanently assigned.

Upon request, these records will be made available to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Department regional bureaus, and OBO, and will be used in annual certifications.  Such documentation does not preclude the requirement for Washington, DC headquarters to approve leases or assignments exceeding post’s authority in 15 FAM 300.

15 FAM 212.4  Petitions and Appeals of Housing Assignments

15 FAM 212.4-1  Petitions

(CT:OBO-61;   11-07-2017)

At posts with sufficient vacant U.S. Government-held units, employees may petition post’s IAHB for alternative quarters prior to occupying their assigned quarters.  To grant or deny a petition, post’s IAHB does not necessarily need to hear a formal appeal stating the assigned quarters are unsuitable.  Note that an initial decision on a petition does not preclude a subsequent appeal.  Such petitions must not involve the acquisition of new leases; they should be limited to prospective reassignment of currently vacant properties already in the housing pool.  The SRPM and post’s IAHB should be careful about granting such petitions and give due consideration to:

(1)  Possible increases in maintenance costs;

(2)  Change in cost to agencies (e.g., preoccupancy painting, cleaning, or transient lodging) or

(3)  Increasing the difficulty for efficient make-ready scheduling.

If the government incurs increased costs due to a reassignment approved for an employee’s personal reasons, the employee (not the employee’s agency) must fully pay for all additional costs—including any make-ready expenses.

15 FAM 212.4-2  Appeals

(CT:OBO-61;   11-07-2017)

An appeal is a formal request for a change of quarters, which maintains the occupant’s assigned quarters are unsuitable.  Employees who wish to appeal an IAHB housing assignment must submit the justification to post’s IAHB and to the SRPM for review.  If not resolved, it will be submitted to the DCM and/or COM for a decision.  If it is still not resolved at post, the employee may appeal directly to his or her parent agency.  A State Department employee may submit their appeal to the appropriate regional bureau’s executive director for review.  Provide copies of such appeals to the SRPM, who will then forward copies to OBO and the regional bureau.  The parent agency, in consultation with OBO, must determine whether the issue warrants the Washington IAHB’s consideration.  If the IAHB’s initial assignment was proper, such appeals must not involve the acquisition of new leases, and should be limited to prospective reassignment of currently vacant properties already in the housing pool.

15 FAM 212.4-3  Housing Options Pending Decision of Appeal

(CT:OBO-61;   11-07-2017)

Until a decision is made on an appeal, the employee may:

(1)  Continue to receive Temporary Quarters Subsistence Allowance (TQSA) benefits (not to exceed the maximum authorization set forth in the Department of State Standardized Regulations, DSSR);

(2)  Move into the assigned quarters;

(3)  Occupy any vacant post transient housing; or

(4)  Occupy alternate quarters at their own expense.

LQA/OHA cannot be authorized if appropriate U.S. Government-held housing would remain vacant.

15 FAM 212.5  Post Housing Guidelines

(CT:OBO-61;   11-07-2017)

Each post must biennially prepare and update post housing guidelines for employees and their eligible family members on official assignment to post.  The outline in 15 FAM Exhibit 212.5 can be adapted for individual posts when preparing such guidelines.

15 FAM 212.6  Annual Market Survey of Housing

(CT:OBO-61;   11-07-2017)

a. A survey of the local real estate market in all RSO-approved neighborhoods (whether posts currently have residences there or not) provides an objective assessment of market conditions, and enables posts to compare the market with rents for the current housing inventory.  Posts should use survey results to establish rental ceilings and document conditions related to the availability and cost of suitable housing.  The survey should reflect the housing selection criteria outlined in 15 FAM 228, including maximum space standards, cost, distance, and security considerations.

b. Posts must conduct a market survey, at least annually, and provide a copy of the survey to the Portfolio Management Division, Office of Real Property Leasing, Directorate for Planning and Real Estate, Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO/PRE/RPL/PM) within 30 days of completion.  Post should use survey results and other appropriate market research (cleared with OBO/PRE) to verify rental benchmarks and/or establish rental control ceilings, and document conditions related to the availability and cost of suitable housing.  Posts must submit their annual housing market survey by December 31 of each year.

15 fam 213  through 219 unassigned

15 FAM Exhibit 212.5  
Post Housing Guidelines Outline

(CT:OBO-61;   11-07-2017)

Items marked with an asterisk (*) are required.

References are the applicable sections in 15 FAM noted below.

I.      Introduction

II.    Housing Policy                                                  211

*1.  Post Interagency Housing Board (IAHB)                 212.2-2

a.   Composition                                                212.2-2(B)

b.   Responsibilities and Functions                        212.2-2(C)

*2.  Housing Assignment Procedures

a.   Criteria for Housing Assignments                    260

b.   Petitions and Appeals                                   212.4

III.   Occupancy of U.S. Government-Provided

*1.  Responsibilities

a.   U.S. Government Responsibility                      240; 252; 612

b.   Occupant Responsibility                                240; 612

Damage and Cleaning Deposits                      247

Use of Quarters During Employee’s Absence     241

c.    Landlord Responsibility                                 612

*2.  Inventory of Furniture, Furnishings,
and Equipment (FF&E)                                         736

a.   Upon Arrival

b.   Upon Departure

*3.  Basic Furniture, Furnishings, and Equipment
(FF&E) Provided in U.S. Government-Furnished
Quarters                                                          723

4.   Schedule and Standards for Refurbishing               733

5.   Maintenance                                                     622

a.   Work Order Requests

b.   Access of Workers and Others to Quarters

c.    Emergencies

6.   Residential Telephones

7.   Residential Keys

8.   Inspection                                                        247

IV.    Privately Leased Quarters (if applicable)           236

1.   Policy and Space Standards Applicability                211

2.   Housing in the Area

3.   Special Lease Provisions                                      340

4.   Rental Agent Fees                                              313.8

5.   Procedures for Obtaining Living Quarters
Allowance (LQA) Advances

6.   Temporary Equipment Loans

7.   Telephones in LQA-Provided Quarters

V.     Transient Quarters                                            249

1.   Eligibility

2.   Addresses and Telephone Numbers
of Transient Quarters

a.   Telephoning to and from Post

b.   Telephone Bills

3.   Emergencies

VI.    General Information for Occupants
(as applicable)

1.   Hospitality Kits

2.   Storage and Surplus Furniture Provision
For and Maintenance of All Appliances
and Equipment (Including Refrigerators,                120; 622; 632;
Washing Machines, Clothes Dryers, and                 712; 720; 730;
Ranges)                                                           762

3.   Utilities and Building Operating Expenses (BOE)

4.   Air Conditioners                                                 622

5.   Generators

6.   Electric Current, Pest Control Services,                  622; 957.2
Snow Removal

7.   Lawns and Gardens                                            622

8.   Domestic Employees                                          244

9.   Parking/Garaging of Motor Vehicles                       313.6

10.  Recreational Facilities                                         313.7

11.  Hobbies/Businesses                                            240

12.  Pets                                                                245

13.  Residential Smoke Alarms                                   841

14.  Portable Fire Extinguishers                                  842

15.  Carbon Monoxide Alarms                                     970

16.  Swimming Pool Barriers                                      970; 957.4

17.  Surrender of Quarters                                        247

18.  Packing Out