Cuckoos

What is a Cuckoo?

'Cuckoo' is a term given to those who occupy Service Families Accommodation (SFA) to which they are not, or no longer, entitled.

Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) face significant challenges providing the right quality and quantity of SFA to Service personnel in their working location.  The shortages of SFA and the increasing need for expensive substitute accommodation (SSFA) has forced the senior management to explore ways of ensuring that all occupants are indeed entitled to live in the SFA they currently occupy.  Those who are not entitled are referred to as ‘cuckoos’. The question is – are you one of these?

The Problem

Where DIO (and therefore the RAF) fail to provide the right quality and quantity of SFA, the RAF not only dislocate new occupants from their work colleagues and social networks,but also lock up the existing suitable SFA and have to procure surplus SFA (the old excess rent allowance) at a cost which significantly constrains DIO Ops Housing's ability to improve and maintain its own housing stock.

Where to Start with a Solution

It is DIO Service Delivery Accommodation's (SDA) intention to resolve the situation in interrogating and cross-referencing the relevant Housing and JPA IT systems to produce lists of occupants whose SFA is no longer associated with their current work location.

It is intended to issue a letter to any occupant who 'appears' to be housed in SFA that is in an area no longer related to their post/working location, seeking clarification from the occupant that the centrally held facts are correct.  There may be perfectly valid reasons why this arrangement is in place, which is why DIO will act in liaison with the local chain of command to vet the lists beforehand, to avoid issuing a letter to families with extant and supported personal, welfare or medical issues.

No Justification

Where there is no justification for an occupant to be in their current SFA location, 28 days from the issue of the letter, DIO will consider initiating the Notice to Vacate process, allowing the occupant a further 3 months to find another entitled SFA within their current work catchment area or to opt for private accommodation arrangements.  Clearly, DIO (SDA) will provide the necessary assistance to any occupant seeking SFA in their new location as a result of receiving Notice to Vacate.  Furthermore, DIO will institute a local Housing Panel to decide upon case submissions for those seeking to retain their SFA.

It is not the intention to frighten or threaten occupants and there are many reasons for occupying a quarter not seeming to be part of their entitlement.  The following Q & A may help.

Questions and Answers

What is a ‘Cuckoo’?

This refers to those Service personnel who are occupying a SFA in areas where they are not entitled to be located. 

Where should you be living?

JSP 464, the Tri-Service Accommodation Regulations states that:

‘SFA is to be provided as close as possible to the Service person's duty station with DIO Ops Housing always attempting in the first instance to offer SFA within 10 miles radius of the duty station. SFA outside this radius, up to a maximum of 20 miles, can be allocated only with the agreement of the Local Service Commander’.

Are there any circumstances where is it permissible to retain a quarter on posting?

For a variety of reasons, you may wish to retain your present SFA, rather than move on to your next Duty Station. However, to avoid disadvantaging an entitled family, DIO (SDA) will normally only grant retention in exceptional circumstances. These exceptional circumstances have been agreed by the three Services and are also contained in JSP 464.

What if my child is in the middle of a school year?

One of the most frequently requested reasons for retention is continuity of a child’s education before public examinations. Retention is admissible for one academic term (or 4 months) leading up to an examination. Retention may also be possible if a child cannot transfer schools within 3 years of public examinations. When considering retention on educational grounds, including special educational needs, families should seek advice from the Children’s Education Advisory Service (CEAS) Trenchard Lines, Upavon 01980 618244. Families must obtain an Educational Impact Statement to support the application, which can take some time.

Are there any other circumstances under which I may be granted retention?

To avoid repeated upheaval, retention is admissible if, within the space of 11 months, there would be an initial move of short duration followed by a second move.

If you have a short-notice posting, retention of up to 3 months is possible when less than 6 weeks notice is given and retention of up to one month can be granted when you receive less than 3 months notice of a posting. Limited retention for a period of 28 days can also be authorised in cases where SFA is not available at the new Duty Station.

Involuntary Separated Tours would not result in a family having to vacate their present SFA during the operational tour or course.
Retention of SFA may also be granted on welfare or medical grounds. Each case is considered individually and would involve the appropriate welfare, medical or educational agencies.

Occupants in SSFA may exceptionally be granted retention on the same grounds as for SFA, terms and conditions of the Licence to Occupy still apply.

  • Once authorised, retention is an extension to your entitlement for the required period only and would not exceed 12 months. After 12 months re-application is necessary. If you have a valid reason for pursuing a request for retention, please notify DIO (SDA) as soon as possible
  •  Educational.  Where a child is reaching a critical examination period such as GCSE, A/S level, A Level and certain further education courses, retention may be granted.  Families should seek advice from HQ CEAS (Children’s Education Advisory Service) Trenchard Lines, Upavon - 01980 618244 who are best placed to consider the circumstances of the case, and where appropriate, to issue an Impact Statement.
  •  Moves of short duration. Retention of SFA/SSFA is admissible in cases where the forthcoming move is to be followed by a second move within 11 months.


A fuller explanation of the criteria for retention can be found in JSP 464 (TSARs) Part 1 Chapter 8 Section VIII on the Defence Infrastructure Organisation pages.

If on reading this, you suspect you may be a ‘cuckoo’ the best thing to do is to contact DIO (SDA) and discuss the options available to you.  If you and your family have genuine and justifiable reasons for retaining your current SFA, DIO (SDA) staffs will consider your case on merit and will consult the chain of command as appropriate. 

If you have no real reason for retaining the quarter other than ‘we like it here’, ‘quarters aren’t as nice at our duty unit’ or ‘I’d have to give up my job if we moved’, spare a thought for the entitled family you may be preventing from moving into their new duty unit and bite the bullet – either move to the new area or make alternative accommodation arrangements. The JSHAO can provide lots of advice on housing options available to you.

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