What is the purpose of Housing Quality Standards (HQS)?
The goal of the Section 8/Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP) is to provide "decent, safe and sanitary" housing at an affordable cost to low-income families. Housing Quality Standards help HUD and local Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) accomplish that goal by defining "standard housing" and establishing the minimum quality criteria necessary for the health and safety of program participants. All Section 8 housing units must meet these housing quality standards in order to participate in the Section 8/HCVP program.
What are the 13 key aspects of housing quality covered by performance requirements and acceptability criteria in the HQS?
The 13 key aspects of housing quality covered by the HQS include:
- Sanitary facilities
- Food preparation and refuse disposal
- Space and security
- Thermal environment
- Illumination and electricity
- Structure and materials
- Interior air quality
- Water supply
- Lead-based paint
- Site and neighborhood
- Sanitary condition
- Smoke Detectors
How are Housing Quality Standards enforced?
HQS inspections are conducted by PHA staff and contractors to ensure that potential and current HCV housing units meet the minimum performance and acceptability criteria for each of the 13 key housing quality aspects.
When do HQS inspections occur?
HQS inspections come in three different varieties. Initial Inspections occur when a voucher holder indicates to their PHA that they desire to lease a specific housing unit. The unit must pass the initial inspection before the execution of the assisted lease and housing assistance payments (HAP) contract and the initiation of payments. Annual Inspections occur once a year on housing units that are under lease by an Section 8/HCVP participant family. Annual inspections ensure that Section 8/HCVP housing units continue to meet HQS throughout the tenancy of the Section 8/HCVP participant family. Special Inspections may be complaint inspections or quality control inspections. Complaint inspections occur when a tenant, owner, or member of the public complains about the condition of an Section 8/HCVP housing unit. Quality control inspections examine a sample of housing units within a given PHA's jurisdiction each year and occur throughout the year.
Who is responsible for providing the inspector access to the unit?
For initial inspections of vacant units, the owner is responsible for providing access; failure to comply may result in cancellation of the Request for Tenancy Approval (RFTA). For occupied initial inspections, the tenant is responsible for providing access. If two scheduled HQS inspections are missed, due to the tenant's failure to provide access, the family will be denied or terminated for failure to meet the family obligations.
How do the inspectors decide whether to pass or fail an apartment?
The inspectors will perform the inspections based on the (HUD) Inspections Checklist which are used as a guideline to determine if the unit meets HQS standards. One single failure item on this checklist will result in a failed inspection. The inspector must determine whether the reason for the failed inspection was landlord or tenant caused and whether this represents an emergency or not.
What happens if the inspection fails?
On failed initial inspections- A detailed result of the failed items will be provided to the landlord I tenant. The applicant will have the option of waiting to see if the owner will correct the failed items within a reasonable time or continue a housing search. If applicant chooses to wait, the owner must notify HHA that the failed items have been corrected and a re-inspection of the unit must be scheduled to confirm Unit meets HQS requirements.
On emergency (24 hours) inspections - In these cases the owner will be notified via fax or telephone regarding the emergency condition. The owner will have 24 hours to repair the unit before a re-inspection occurs. If the failed item(s) are not corrected, the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) will be suspended on the first of the month following the failure date, and will not be reinstated until there is a passed inspection result.
Non-emergency - tenant responsibility - The tenant will have 28 to correct the failed items. Are-inspection will be scheduled to verify if the items were corrected. If not, the HHA will initiate termination of assistance.
Non-emergency - landlord responsibility - The landlord will receive a First Failure Notice and a copy of the inspection report within 3-5 business days from the date of the inspection. The owner will have 28 days to complete repairs before re-inspection. If the unit fails for a second time, it will be abated. (Please refer to page 7, "Abatements")
What if a landlord cannot obtain access to make repairs?
An owner's Housing Assistance Payments will not be abated in an HQS violation is the owner's responsibility and the tenant refuses to give the owner access to the unit to make the required repairs. In this situation, the owner must document attempts to gain entry by notifying the HHA in writing of the situation and include copies of any correspondence sent to the tenant requesting entry to make repairs. If the tenant refuses to allow entry after the owner's documented attempts, the HAP contract will be terminated and the owner should consider initiating eviction proceedings.
If there is a disagreement with a determination that a failure was either landlord or tenant caused, can you appeal the decision?
If there is a disagreement with an inspector's determination, both the tenant and landlord have the option to appeal the decision by contacting the HHA's HQS Department and presenting all evidence that the failure was the fault of the other party. If a supervisory inspection is needed, one will be scheduled. During this time, if the party that the failure was attributed to chooses not to make the repairs and the correction period passes, HQS enforcement (abatement or termination of assistance) will take place. However, if it is decided that the initial determination was wrong and the failure was the other party's fault, reversal of the HQS enforcement will take place and the proper course of HQS enforcement will begin.
Types of Inspections
In order for a unit to be approved for participation in the rental assistance program, it must first be inspected by a Hialeah Housing Authority (HHA) staff inspector to determine if the unit meets the Housing Quality Standard (HQS) requirements. This inspection will be scheduled with the owner once the RFTA is received and the proposed rent has been determined reasonable. The inspection will not be scheduled until the unit is unoccupied and all utilities are on. A unit can be occupied when the tenant is leasing the unit at the time the voucher is issued and wishes to remain in it. If the unit fails the inspection, a notice will be sent to the owner detailing the deficiencies, once the repairs have been completed the HA will schedule a re-inspection.
To comply with HUD regulations annual HQS inspections are conducted within 12 months of the initial or previous annual inspection. Notification is mailed to the landlord and tenant approximately 14 days in advance. Tenants are responsible for providing access to the premises; failure to comply may result in termination of assistance. Written notification will be sent to both tenant and landlord outlining the deficiencies found and the party responsible for correcting the violations. Re-inspections will be automatically scheduled 30 days from the date of the first inspection, if it fails again for the same violations the property will be abated as per the terms of the HAP Contract.
These are done at the request of the landlord or the tenant and are normally due to a complaint. Violations should be corrected using the same time frame as the annual inspections. Failure to comply may result in abatement or termination of assistance.
Emergency (24 hours) Inspections
An emergency inspection will be performed upon request when a condition poses an immediate threat to the safety or health of the family. If the following types of violations are found, the deficiencies must be corrected within 24 hours and their inspection scheduled for the next day.
- No water, electricity or gas (when needed for a range or heater)
- Major plumbing leaks, flooding or sewer back up
- Gas leaks or fumes
- Uninhabitable units due to fire or natural disaster
- No operational sanitary facilities
- Electrical fixtures that spark, short circuits or smokes, creating a fire hazard
- Any condition that jeopardizes the security I safety of the unit
Quality Control Inspections
These Inspections are performed to comply with HUD requirements, where a percentage of the units inspected must be selected at random and re-inspected to determine the quality of the previous inspections.
Abatements become effective the first of the month following the failed re-inspection and will continue until the owner corrects the deficiency and the unit passes inspection. Abatement is a period of time when the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) is not made to the owner. It is imposed as the result of program violations; therefore no retroactive payments will be made for the time the unit remains under abatement. During abatements, the HAP contract remains in force, for this reason, abatement of HAP is not legal grounds for evicting a tenant. As long as the tenant continues paying his I her portion of the rent the family cannot be evicted, federal regulations prohibit owners from evicting a tenant for an abated HAP. The owner's HAP will be reinstated once required repairs are made and unit passes inspection.
Landlord/Unit Inspection Checklist
To avoid lengthy delays, the following checklist will serve as a guide to aid you in the make ready of the unit for an Initial Inspection. Please go through this checklist before calling to request an inspection.
- The unit has been completely cleaned
- All construction work has been completed and working tools and materials removed
- All exterior doors and windows have locks that are operable
- If windows have screens they must be in good condition. Screens are not mandatory
- All light switches and electrical outlets cover plates are in place and in good condition
- There is no peeling paint inside the unit and no peeling paint on the exterior surface below five feet
- All cabinet doors open, close and latch easily
- All interior doors must have a keyless locking device
- Dirty walls have been newly painted
- All carpets are clean, secured and free of tripping hazards
- There is a least one operable smoke detector in each level of the unit, especially near sleeping rooms
- There are not plumbing leaks inside or outside the unit
- Water heater has a pressure relief valve and a discharge line directed toward the floor or outside the living area
- All utilities are turned on or connected (electricity, gas, water)
- All sleeping rooms have at least a window (If iron bars are present, it must have some type of fire escape hatch operable from inside the unit)
- The owner or the agent for the owner must be present for an initial inspection
- All grounds around the unit are free from debris and mowed
- Where applicable, a valid elevator certificate
Lead Based Paint
In 1978 lead-based paint was banned for residential use by EPA. HUD requires tenants and landlords are informed about the dangers of lead-based paint poisoning. It is the landlord's responsibility to inform tenants that there may be lead-based paint in the unit. Included in the packet you will find information regarding this topic.
Should you have any questions or like to schedule an initial inspection, please contact the Inspection Department at 305.887.9844.