Government Family Housing
The inside of occupied housing units are not normally inspected as dormitories are. (Although, they may be inspected no-notice if the commander receives any kind of safety or sanitary problem-reports). The outside of housing is an entirely different matter. All of the services are pretty strict about dictating exactly how the outside of the house (yard) will be maintained. Most of them employ personnel who will drive by each and every housing unit once per week, and write "tickets" for any discrepancies noted. Receive too many tickets in too short a period of time, and you will be requested to move off-base.
In the states, most on-base family housing units are duplexes, or sometimes fourplexes. For officers and more senior enlisted members, on-base family housing in the states are usually either duplexes or single dwellings. Sometimes there are fenced-in back yards, and at other bases there are not. Usually, if the housing unit has a back yard, but no fence, you can get permission to install a fence at your own expense (you have to agree to take the fence down, when you move out, if the next occupant decides he/she doesn't want a fence).
The same is true of almost any "improvement" you wish to make to on-base family housing. Usually, you can get permission to do "Self Help" improvements, but you must agree to return the house to its original state, if the next person to move in doesn't want to accept your "improvement."
Overseas, on-base family housing units are generally in the form of high-rise apartment buildings -- kind of like a condominium.
Moving out of base housing is a lot harder than moving in. This is the one time when the inside of the house WILL be inspected, and it will be expected to be in immaculate condition (many people hire professional cleaners prior to checkout). However, many bases now have programs where the base itself hires professional cleaners when an occupant moves out, making the process much easier.
More and more Military bases are moving to privatized family housing. This housing is maintained, managed (and sometimes built) by private industry. The "rent" for these privatized units are paid to the housing management agency by military pay allotment, and is equal to the member's housing allowance.
Instead of living in the dormitories or residing in on-base housing, you may be authorized to live off-base. In this case, the military will pay you BAH. The amount of this nontaxable allowance is dependent upon your rank, marital (dependency) status, and the area you (or your dependents) live in. Once per year, the military hires an independent agency to survey the average housing costs in all of the areas where significant amounts of military personnel live. The Per Diem, Travel and Transportation Allowance Committee uses this data to compute the amount of BAH you will receive each month. (Currently designed to cover about 96.5 percent of the total average housing costs, but scheduled to increase so that it covers 100 percent of average housing costs in 2005.
One of the nice features about the BAH law is that the amount of BAH you receive may never go down while you are living in an area, even if the average cost of housing in that area goes down. Of course, once you move to a different base, your BAH will be recalculated for the current rate in the new location.
An interesting aspect of BAH is the type of housing that the entitlement is based upon. BAH is based on acceptable housing for an individual (or an individual with dependents). For example, a married E-5 is reimbursed based on what DoD considers minimum acceptable housing, a 2 bedroom townhouse or duplex. For an O-5 it is a 4 bedroom detached home. While whether or not one has dependents is a factor, the number of dependents is not. See What BAH Rates are Determined From for more information.
If you move into off-base housing overseas, your monthly entitlement is called OHA (Overseas Housing Allowance), and is recalculated every two weeks. This is because currency rates can fluctuate dramatically overseas, causing housing expenses to go up and down. In addition to OHA, those overseas are entitled to some additional allowances, such as an initial move-in expense allowance, and reimbursement for costs to improve the security of the off-base residence.
If you are authorized to reside off-base, it's very important that you ensure your lease contains a "military clause." A military clause allows you to break your lease in case you are forced to move on official orders.