HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge announced on April 23 that HUD will resume physical inspections on June 1 for public housing and multifamily housing. Guidance in the form of Inspector Notice No. 2021-01 and the REAC Updated Frequently asked Questions (FAQs) for Inspections were posted on the HUD Real Estate Assessment Center (REAC) website on April 27. Also posted on the site is a one-page flyer for residents explaining that inspections will resume and listing resident rights.
Thirteen months ago, in response to the coronavirus pandemic and following public health guidance, HUD suspended most in-person housing inspections by REAC. In consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), public housing agencies (PHAs), and Multifamily housing owners and property managers (POAs) received a letter from Secretary Fudge on April 23 informing them that HUD had developed detailed protocols guiding all aspects of the inspection process.
The flyer for residents lists resident rights, such as the right to tell the PHA, POA, or inspector that they are uncomfortable with others entering their home during the pandemic. If this occurs, the inspector will randomly select another home to inspect. Residents have the choice to be present during an inspection or to leave. The flyer explains the purpose of the inspection and outlines the four-step inspection process that includes advance notice of a pending inspection (although there is no indication of how far in advance the notice must be provided).
Inspector Notice No. 2021-01 and the REAC Updated FAQs for Inspection provide guidance for resuming physical inspection requirements with COVID-19 related precautions using Uniform Physical Inspection Standards (UPCS) and National Standards for the Physical Inspection of Real Estate (NSPIRE) demonstration (see Memo, 8/26/19, 9/16/19). The guidance applies to all property types subject to REAC inspections, including HUD-assisted and insured properties as well as NSPIRE demonstration and related inspections.
Effective June 1, REAC will expand inspections of high priority properties, selecting public housing and Multifamily properties for inspection based on a variety of factors, such as insured/non-insured status, time elapsed since a previous inspection, risk indicators, field office inquiries, ideal future inspection date, PHA requested inspections, and historic physical inspection scores. In addition, REAC will inspect properties that have volunteered for NSPIRE.
Prior to an inspection, REAC will notify the property at least 28 days before an inspection, which is an increase from the 14-day notice initiated in February of 2019 (see Memo, 2/25/19). The REAC inspector will call again and provide written notice to a PHA or POA to schedule an inspection 14 days ahead of an inspection. The inspector will follow up with the property two days before an inspection to re-confirm the inspection and ensure nothing has changed.
During the 28-day, 14-day, and two-day calls, the inspector will ask whether there are any known COVID-19 cases on the property. Although neither guidance document directly states it, presumably if there are COVID-19 cases inspection will be rescheduled. On inspection day, if a unit randomly selected for inspection has an occupant who has contracted COVID-19, the inspector will replace that unit with an alternate unit.
A PHA or POA may require an inspector to have their temperature checked prior to inspections. Inspectors may ask about the health status of property staff and residents. Residents are allowed to refuse an inspection; in such instances an alternate unit will be inspected.
REAC inspectors will follow CDC recommended guidance for travel, social distancing, use of hand-sanitizer and wearing of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) such as face masks and gloves throughout an inspection. PPE must be worn throughout all phases of the inspection process, including masks and gloves, even if local requirements do not require masks and gloves.
During inspections, if residents choose to stay, the inspector and PHA/POA representatives should follow social distance protocols. If social distances cannot be maintained, the inspector must not enter the unit or must leave the unit. The inspector then marks the unit as un-inspectable and goes to an alternate unit.
During a phone call with stakeholders the day before the Secretary’s announcement PIH and Multifamily staff provided additional information not in the media release, Secretary’s letter, or the new guidance. For example, HUD will consider a property high priority for inspection if it previously had a REAC score less than 60 or had not been inspected for a long time. High-priority properties were notified on April 26 that they were on the high-priority list and should expect an inspection by the end of calendar year 2021. High-priority public housing properties will be inspected using the NSPIRE’s “life-threatening deficiencies” standards, even if the PHA did not volunteer to participate in NSPIRE. PIH will continue to forego issuing Public Housing Assessment System (PHAS) scores during the pandemic. All high-priority Multifamily properties will be scored based on UPCS.
The HUD media release from April 23 is at: https://bit.ly/2S30jic
Secretary Fudge’s April 23 letter to PHAs and Multifamily owners and operators is at: https://bit.ly/2Pwt6Lj
Inspector Notice No. 2021-01is at: https://bit.ly/3vpkDZA
The REAC Updated FAQs for Inspections is at: https://bit.ly/2QxwBlg
The one-page flyer for residents is at: https://bit.ly/3nsV472
The REAC homepage is at: https://bit.ly/3xwCXlg
More information about public housing is on page 4-30 of NLIHC’s 2021 Advocates’ Guide.
More information about Multifamily housing is on page 4-64 of NLIHC’s 2021 Advocates’ Guide.