Frequently Asked Questions About BAH

two-family house photo

Basic Allowance For Housing is a tax-free monthly monetary allowance for servicemembers who are not provided government housing.

1.  Who is eligible for BAH?

A member assigned to permanent duty within the 50 United States, who is not furnished Government housing, is eligible for BAH, based on the member's rank, dependency status and permanent duty station zip code. A member stationed overseas (except in Hawaii and Alaska), including U.S. territories and possessions, who is not furnished government housing, is eligible for an Overseas Housing Allowance (OHA) based on the member's dependency status.

2. Where can I look up my rates?

Please visit our BAH Rates Page.

3.  I looked up the current year BAH amount for my grade and ZIP code and it's less than I was getting last year. Am I going to lose money?

No. BAH rate protection keeps an individual from having a reduction in BAH as long as the individual maintains uninterrupted eligibility (see below) for BAH. This means an individual is authorized the 1 January rate for the individual's grade and location or the housing allowance being paid on 31 December of the previous year, whichever is larger.

4.  Can I ever lose rate protection?

Three separate circumstances may lead to a change in your status that interrupts your eligibility for the allowance, and then, only if the published allowance for your grade and location is less than what you are getting now.

  1. Most common, a decrease occurs when you PCS to a location at which the housing cost is less than at your current duty station. At the new duty station, you get a lower housing allowance, but you should be no worse off because the allowance is driven by the housing costs there.
  2. If you are demoted, your housing allowance reverts to the then-current published table of allowances for your lower grade. Promotions do not lower your housing allowance.
  3. If your dependency status changes (from with dependents to without dependents, or vice versa), your housing allowance is determined by your new dependency status and the then-current published table of allowances for your grade.

5.  If, in a given year, I lose rate protection, am I protected from further decreases in the following year(s)?

Yes. An individual is authorized the larger of the:

  1. 1 January published BAH for grade and location; or
  2. Housing allowance being paid on 31 December.

6.  Does rate protection keep me from getting rate increases?

No. An individual is authorized the larger of the:

  1. 1 January published BAH for grade and location; or
  2. Housing allowance being paid on 31 December.

7.  If I get promoted, do I get the "protected" BAH amount for my new pay grade?

No. If you are promoted, your BAH rate is the then-current published BAH for your new (higher) grade, with the following exception. If you get promoted and are in a location where the current published BAH for your new grade is lower than the BAH amount you were receiving before, you continue to receive the higher BAH amount.

8.  Will I see big changes in housing allowances on 1 January?

Typically changes in housing allowances are modest. Allowances reflect the costs associated with household rental. Generally, rental prices change between 2% to 5% from year to year, with "hot" markets changing 5% to 10%. Housing allowances typically change accordingly.

9.  I have some out-of-pocket expenses!

Yes, some members at a location may have out-of-pocket expenses. BAH rates are set based on the median housing cost for each grade and housing profile. For a given individual, an out-of-pocket expense may or may not be incurred based on the actual housing choice. If a member rents at or above the median rate for the grade/profile, that member incurs out-of-pocket expenses. The opposite is true for an individual who chooses to occupy a less expensive residence. Only a member whose housing costs are below the median will have no out-of-pocket expenses. 

10.  The BAH for my grade doesn't begin to cover my mortgage payment!

BAH is based on rental data. A homeowner's monthly mortgage payment is not used in the computation because the monthly cash outlay of a homeowner is not a good indicator of the economic costs of homeownership. The variables needed to compute this include such difficult to measure factors as the expected appreciation in the value of the residence, the amount of down payment, the opportunity costs of interest from down payments, settlement costs and the tax savings due to the interest and tax payments deduction. Therefore, BAH reflects the current rental market conditions, not the historical circumstances surrounding various mortgage loans.

11.  What housing costs are used to set BAH rates?

BAH rates are computed using current median market rents and average local expenditures on utilities (electricity, water, sewer and heating fuel) in each local market area, and will fluctuate as those costs change. 

12.  Does family size make a difference?

No. Although BAH distinguishes between with-dependent and without-dependent, the with-dependent compensation is based on comparable civilians using average family size.

13.  What is BAH-Differential?

BAH Differential (BAH-DIFF) is the housing allowance amount for a member who is assigned to single-type quarters and who is authorized a BAH solely by reason of the member's payment of child support. A member is not authorized BAH-DIFF if the monthly rate of that child support is less than the BAH-DIFF amount. The BAH-DIFF amounts, originally calculated in 1997, are updated annually based on changes in the Basic Pay tables.  For more information see our BAH-DIFF page.

14.  I am divorced with children, what is my BAH allowance?

It depends on whether or not you have legal and physical custody of your children, pay child support, and/or live in single-type Government quarters. If you have legal and physical custody of your children, then you are authorized BAH at the with-dependent rate if not assigned adequate family-type Government quarters. If your former spouse has custody and you are paying adequate child support (at least in an amount of your BAH-DIFF rate) you are authorized BAH at the with-dependent rate if not in Government quarters or BAH-DIFF if assigned single-type Government quarters.

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