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.
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 conditions
- Smoke Detectors
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 currently under lease by an HCV participant family. Annual inspections ensure that HCV housing units continue to meet HQS throughout the tenancy of the HCV 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 HCV housing unit. Quality control inspections examine a sample of housing units within a give PHA’s jurisdiction each year and occur throughout the year.
HUD is defining a nonlife-threatening condition as any condition that would fail to meet the housing quality standards under 24 CFR 982.401 and is not a life-threatening condition. Further, for the purposes of implementing the policy outlined by HOTMA, HUD is defining life-threatening conditions as follows and applies to all HQS inspections:
- Gas (natural or liquid petroleum) leak or fumes. A life-threatening condition under this standard is one of the following: (a) A fuel storage vessel, fluid line, valve, or connection that supplies fuel to a HVAC unit is leaking; or (b) a strong gas odor detected with potential for explosion or fire, or that results in health risk if inhaled.
- Electrical hazards that could result in shock or fire. A life-threatening condition under this standard is one of the following: (a) A light fixture is readily accessible, is not securely mounted to the ceiling or wall, and electrical connections or wires are exposed; (b) a light fixture is hanging by its wires; (c) a light fixture has a missing or broken bulb, and the open socket is readily accessible to the tenant during the day to day use of the unit; (d) a receptacle (outlet) or switch is missing or broken and electrical connections or wires are exposed; (e) a receptacle (outlet) or switch has a missing or damaged cover plate and electrical connections or wires are exposed; (f) an open circuit breaker position is not appropriately blanked off in a panel board, main panel board, or other electrical box that contains circuit breakers or fuses; (g) a cover is missing from any electrical device box, panel box, switch gear box, control panel, etc., and there are exposed electrical connections; (h) any nicks, abrasions, or fraying of the insulation that expose conducting wire; (i) exposed bare wires or electrical connections; (j) any condition that results in openings in electrical panels or electrical control device enclosures; (k) water leaking or pooling near any electrical device; or (l) any condition that poses a serious risk of electrocution or fire and poses an immediate life-threatening condition.
- Inoperable or missing smoke detector. A life-threatening condition under this standard is one of the following: (a) the smoke detector is missing; or (b) the smoke detector does not function as it should.
- Interior air quality. A life threatening condition under this standard is one of the following: (a) the carbon monoxide detector is missing; or (b) the carbon monoxide detector does not function as it should.
- Gas/oil fired water heater or heating, ventilation, or cooling system with missing, damaged, improper, or misaligned chimney or venting. A life threatening condition under this standard is one of the following: (a) The chimney or venting system on a fuel fired water heater is misaligned, negatively pitched, or damaged, which may cause improper or dangerous venting of gases; (b) a gas dryer vent is missing, damaged, or is visually determined to be inoperable, or the dryer exhaust is not vented to the outside; (c) a fuel fired space heater is not properly vented or lacks available combustion air; (d) a non-vented space heater is present; (e) safety devices on a fuel fired space heater are missing or damaged; or (f) the chimney or venting system on a fuel fired heating, ventilation, or cooling system is misaligned, negatively pitched, or damaged which may cause improper or dangerous venting of gases.
- Lack of alternative means of exit in case of fire or blocked egress. A life threatening condition under this standard is one of the following: (a) Any of the components that affect the function of the fire escape are missing or damaged; (b) stored items or other barriers restrict or prevent the use of the fire escape in the event of an emergency; or (c) the building’s emergency exit is blocked or impeded, thus limiting the ability of occupants to exit in a fire or other emergency.
- Other interior hazards. A life threatening condition under this standard is a fire extinguisher (where required) that is missing, damaged, discharged, overcharged, or expired.
- Deteriorated paint, as defined by 24 CFR 35.110, in a unit built before 1978 that is to be occupied by a family with a child under 6 years of age. This is a life-threatening condition only for the purpose of a condition that would prevent a family from moving into the unit. All lead hazard reduction requirements in 24 CFR part 35, including the timeline for lead hazard reduction procedures, still apply.
- Any other condition subsequently identified by HUD as life threatening in a notice published in the Federal Register. HUD will notify PHAs if such changes are made.
- Any other condition identified by the administering PHA as life threatening in the PHA’s administrative plan prior to this notice taking effect and are as follows:
- Lack of security for the unit
- Waterlogged ceiling in imminent danger of falling
- Major plumbing leaks or flooding
- No heat when outside temperature is below 50 degrees Fahrenheit and temperature inside unit is below 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Utilities not in service
- No running hot water
- Broken glass where someone could be injured
- Lack of functioning toilet
If the unit fails for any item listed above under local repair item and life threatening conditions, the unit will be considered as an HQS fail and must pass an HQS inspection to be eligible to receive housing assistance payments.