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HUD Updates “Questions and Answers for Office of Multifamily Housing Stakeholders: Coronavirus (COVID-19)”

HUD’s Office of Multifamily Housing Programs, which oversees contracts with private owners of HUD-assisted properties, made a sixth update to its “Questions and Answers for Office of Multifamily Housing Stakeholders: Coronavirus (COVID-19)” (see Memo, 5/11) on May 21. This update includes five revised questions and 11 new questions. This article highlights three of the new Q&As.

Under the subheading “Moratorium on Evictions under the CARES Act,” Q19 (page 14) asks:

Q: Can an owner or agent of a multifamily property covered by the CARES Act carry forward late fees and related charges that were initiated prior to enactment of the CARES Act? Can these owners or agents add additional fees, or assign new fees or charges for delinquent rent, and wait to bill those fees after the end of the relevant eviction moratorium?

A: An owner or agent of a multifamily property covered by the CARES Act may only charge fees and penalties during the eviction moratorium if the charge is wholly unrelated to a tenant’s nonpayment of rent. However, during the eviction moratorium, the CARES Act prohibits an owner or agent from filing for possession of a unit for nonpayment of any rent, fee, or charge. This holds true regardless of the date the fee or charge was initially assessed.

While the CARES Act is silent on what an owner or agent can charge after the eviction moratorium ends, HUD’s interpretation of this provision is that fees and charges that could not be assessed during the eviction moratorium should not accrue and should not be charged after the moratorium ends; however, rents not paid during the moratorium, as well as fees assessed prior to the eviction moratorium, which took effect on March 27, 2020, may be collected.

Due to the need for social distancing, it is not safe for residents and property managers to engage face-to-face to carry out formal processes. This makes alternative means of conducting business essential. Previous guidance from Multifamily in earlier Q&As relies heavily on electronic transactions. New Q15 (page 7) under “General Multifamily Housing” asks whether internet services are an allowable expense for properties receiving HUD project-based rental assistance. The answer reads as follows: 

HUD encourages property owners and agents to make their properties internet-ready, including through participation in the Neighborhood Networks Program. Similar to telephone service, broadband or internet fees for individual units may not be included in tenant rent charges or utility allowances for properties receiving project-based rental assistance; however, low-income tenants may be eligible for low-cost internet services.

Under “Environmental Review,” Q6 (page 44) addresses how a public housing agency (PHA) or owners should conduct lead-based paint (LBP), asbestos (ACM), and radon testing if an environmental professional is unable to access homes for Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) conversions:

The answer lists a number of steps that a PHA or owner must take to conduct LBP, ACM, and radon testing. For example, at properties requiring a lead-based paint survey, asbestos survey, or radon testing, the surveys/testing can be deferred until the property can be inspected, but must take place before HUD will issue a RAD Conversion Commitment (RCC). In addition, HUD will continue to hold Concept Calls for RAD public housing conversions without testing being completed. If unit inspections have not occurred by the time of the RAD Financing Plan, HUD will still accept and begin review of the Financing Plan, even with an incomplete Environmental Site Assessment (ESA), as long as the Sources and Uses statement includes an “Environmental Contingency Fund” to cover potential abatement and/or mitigation measures.

“Questions and Answers for Office of Multifamily Housing Stakeholders: Coronavirus (COVID-19)” can be accessed at: https://bit.ly/2Zxt0W6

More about Project-Based Rental Assistance is on page 4-46 of NLIHC’s 2020 Advocates’ Guide.

More about Project-Based Rental Assistance is on page 4-33 of NLIHC’s 2020 Advocates’ Guide.

More information about Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Housing is on page 6-1 of NLIHC’s 2020 Advocates’ Guide.