What’s the difference between retention of an SFA and surplus SFA? AFF housing specialist, Cat Calder, explains all…

Retention is an extension of your entitlement at your previous posting and there are strict criteria – see JSP 464 – which need to be met to be granted permission. If you don’t meet the criteria and there’s sufficient SFA in the area, you may be allowed to stay on in the quarter on a surplus licence. Remember, empty SFA are not necessarily classed as surplus.

It’s also an alternative if you’re in an established long-term relationship LTR(E) which allows unmarried soldiers to cohabit with their partners.

Things to consider

Surplus is a fantastic option for some however, it’s important that you’re aware of the differences in the licences:

  • Amey/DIO only have to give you 28 days’ notice to vacate should it be needed for an entitled service person. Whilst the letter will state 28 days for legal reasons, they will always try to give you as much notice as possible. If you receive a letter, contact them immediately to make them aware of your situation.
  • If you move out of a surplus SFA, unless it is on your next posting order, you will not be entitled to removals or Disturbance Expense.
  • Some allowances, particularly Continuity of Education Allowance, may be impacted, so make sure that you discuss this with your unit admin office first – you don’t want any financial surprises later down the line.
  • If you’re LTR(E), your allowances on posting (in particular, removals) will differ from those who are married. Speak to your unit admin.

Buying time

Nikki and her family have successfully applied for surplus as her husband begins his final posting two hours’ drive away.

She says: “We know we want to settle in the area so moving for his last posting, only to move back again was something we really wanted to avoid. Although our eldest son’s stage of education didn’t officially fall under the retention criteria, after nine years of moving schools regularly we, and his school, were concerned that two more moves in a short space of time would have a negative impact on his GCSE years. Our welfare team suggested we apply to stay in our current SFA on a surplus licence, and with their support it has been a fairly straightforward process. It gives us some leeway to finding the right home to buy, without having to uproot again.”

Know the rules

Living in surplus SFA can be problematic, however. AFF’s south east co-ordinator, Susie Lyles-Clarke, has seen an increase in cases of families being given 28 days’ notice to vacate in her area.

She adds: “The consensus felt amongst those families is that they didn’t think this would ever happen to them. My advice is to make sure you consider the implications because in reality, it does happen.”

The bottom line

Surplus can be an excellent alternative for accommodation at subsidised rates, but just because it’s available in one area, it may not be in another. Our advice – always have a plan B.

Got any questions? Contact me at housing@aff.org.uk

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