HUD’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) issued a June 28 report, “Multifamily Health and Safety Complaint Process,” finding that the Office of Multifamily Housing Programs’ complaint process did not ensure timely resolution of health and safety complaints. HUD Multifamily oversees contracts with private owners of HUD-assisted properties such as the Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance program. The OIG found that performance-based contract administrators (PBCAs) responded to complaints quickly but did not resolve them in a timely manner. The slow resolution of complaints occurred because Multifamily does not have a standardized, effective process for monitoring, tracking, and resolving complaints in a timely manner. As a result, Multifamily housing tenants were, in some instances, faced with unhealthy and dangerous living environments for extended periods.
On average, it took 2.5 days to resolve the life-threatening health and safety issues the OIG reviewed, including three days to resolve a gas leak. It took an average of 17 days to resolve non-life-threatening health and safety issues, including 175 days to resolve an infestation problem. For the audit, the OIG determined that reasonable benchmark resolution times should be 24 hours to resolve life-threatening health and safety issues and 72 hours to resolve non-life-threatening health and safety issues.
PBCAs are state public housing agencies or agency affiliates or are state housing finance agencies. PBCAs administer 92% of all Multifamily annual contribution contracts with the owners of private multifamily housing with Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance. HUD Field Office staff administer the remaining 8%. Multifamily indicated that PBCAs handle 97% of all health and safety complaints while Multifamily staff handle the other 3%. PBCAs send complaint logs to Multifamily regional offices at the end of each month. PBCAs work directly with property owners on complaint intake and resolution and perform core tasks for Section 8 PBRA contracts, ensure tenant safety, address tenant concerns and complaints, conduct onsite visits, perform management reviews, and ensure that contracts are administered according to Multifamily requirements.
Multifamily also receives complaints via a complaint line managed by the Multifamily Housing Clearinghouse at HUD headquarters. Complaints about a property’s management concerning poor maintenance, dangers to health and safety, mismanagement, and fraud are generally sent to the appropriate Multifamily regional office, which directs it to the appropriate PBCA, property management company, or property owner.
The OIG noted that Multifamily has timeliness requirements for responding to health and safety issues but no timelines requirements for resolving those issues. By contract, PBCAs are required to respond immediately to life-threatening issues and within two business days for nonlife-threatening health and safety issues. However, Multifamily has not established specific timeframes for resolving either of these issues. Examples of life-threatening health and safety conditions include detection of gas, exposed wires, security bars preventing egress, missing breaker fuses, and smoke detectors that are missing or inoperable. Examples of non-life-threatening health and safety conditions include leaking faucets and pipes, sewer odors, cracked or missing windows, missing doors, mold and mildew, rats or mice infestation, and an inoperable water supply.
The OIG report listed eight system “weaknesses,” including:
- Multifamily Field Offices did not follow up on or track complaints they sent to a PBCA to resolve.
- Multifamily did not have agencywide guidance specifically stating how its staff must receive, monitor, and track complaints. Each Field Office had its own processes for staff to monitor complaint resolution.
- Multifamily did not require PBCAs to report complaint intake and resolution in a manner to ensure resolution was completed on a timely basis; at best, Multifamily would not know the full extent of complaints received or their resolution status for 30 days.
- Multifamily has not established specific timeframes for resolving life-threatening or non-life-threatening health and safety issues in Multifamily housing, as it had for other HUD program areas, such as Housing Choice Vouchers and public housing.
The OIG recommend that the Multifamily deputy assistant secretary:
- Develop a comprehensive process to ensure that complaints received by the Multifamily Housing Clearinghouse are resolved in a timely manner
- Develop agencywide policies and procedures for the intake, monitoring, and tracking of health and safety complaints
- Develop an automated real-time system for receiving, tracking, and resolving health and safety issues
- Revise the Multifamily annual contributions contract to define more clearly contractor and property management responsibilities and deadlines for resolving health and safety issues
“Multifamily Health and Safety Complaint Process” (Audit Report Number:2021-KC-0004) is at: https://bit.ly/3rQhZeR
More about Project-Based Rental Assistance is on page 4-64 of NLIHC’s 2021 Advocates’ Guide.