One of the challenges of dealing with Section8 or other housing programs is managing their inspections. These inspections are going to occur prior to move-in, annually, and tenants can put in special inspection requests if there is a problem. These are all outside of your own inspections as they are either done by a staff member of the Public Housing Authority or an outside inspection company the PHA has hired.
Generally, owners will be notified in advance of their inspection time and date, but they may not get much advance notice if the inspection is related to significant health or safety issues. The notices may come in the mail, be posted on an online portal, or both. Checking the portal regularly can give you a jumpstart on repairs in they are needed.
At the time of the inspection, the unit will be assessed to determine if it complies with the Housing Quality Standards that the Department of Housing and Urban Development has set, which purpose is to make sure that the property is safe for the Section8 tenant. The Housing Quality Standards include 13 areas that the inspector must examine. Some housing authorities are sticklers in certain areas while letting others slide. Experience is really the only thing that helps with this. It used to be possible to build relationships with individual inspectors. Due to abuse of this, the housing authorities have now randomized assignment of inspectors. The areas they will be looking at are as follows:
- 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 Conditions
- Smoke Detectors
Once the inspection is complete, an inspector may give one of three scores to every unit. First one would be a pass, which means that an area is fully compliant with Section 8 standards. Second one is a fail, which means that specific area must be addressed. Or third one, inconclusive, which means that not enough information is presented for the inspector to make a final decision, this basically means that the inspector needs more information from the property owner or the tenant was not able to let the inspector in. It’s important to note that even if only one area of the unit is marked as failed, the whole unit will be also marked as such.
If the inspection is failed, a list of the items that have been marked as failed (and why) will be given by the inspector and the opportunity to fix them by a specific date. These lists are not always very clear in which case you will need to contact the inspector for an explanation. Being clear and making sure everything is fixed is imperative.
Once you have fixed the item or items, you can then contact the inspector, who will come to re-inspect the unit. He or she will determine if you have fixed the item appropriately by passing the unit or fail the item again if problems persist.. If a unit fails the re-inspection, the property will go into abatement (rental subsidy payments will temporarily stop until the issue has been addressed) if the unit is occupied. Keep in mind that you will be in abatement until the repairs are completed AND the reinspection is done, even if it takes 5 extra days to get the inspector back out. Failing an re-inspection prior to move-in often will cause the move-in to be cancelled and you have to start marketing the unit all over again. There are no 3rd chances. In extreme cases, a voucher can be cancelled even for a tenant living in the unit if you are not able to fix the problem after going into abatement.
Stay on top of your inspections. While you may have some extra repairs that need to be done, you will save money when compared to going into abatement or having to remarket your unit.