A Landlord's Guide to Section 8 Inspections
A guide on section 8 inspections including what to expect and how to prepare.
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The HUD Section 8 program is the flagship housing assistance program of the federal government, with roughly 5 million U.S. households participating in the program. In an effort to increase the availability of affordable housing for low-income Americans, Section 8 Housing Assistance subsidizes rents by paying all or part of a tenant’s rent directly to the landlord.
Participating Section 8 landlords benefit from less risk of late or non payment, as it means regular, monthly payments from their local housing authority. In addition to a more stable cash flow, participating in the program nearly eliminates the cost and hassle of marketing, as there are tenant placement protocols in place, typically with a long waiting list. With such substantial advantages, operating a Section 8 property is no walk in the park, and there are rigorous government inspections that must be passed in order for a landlord to hold on to their ability to participate in the program. No landlord is too keen on an impending inspection, but with sufficient planning and preparation, section 8 inspections can be a relatively straightforward, and worry-free process.
Section 8 Inspections
Section 8 inspections are fairly common occurrences for landlords participating in the program. These inspections pop up as early as during the approval process, where properties are inspected before a Public Housing Authority (PHA) will agree to allow the landlord to participate in the program.
Participating landlords can expect annual inspections to take place. It is also possible to receive inspections as the result of a specific complaint or an audit. In any case, owners are typically given ample warning ahead of their inspection time and date, excluding scenarios where the inspection is related to significant health or safety issues. Inspections are conducted either by an inspector from the local public housing authority, or an outside firm hired by the PHA.
While most Section 8 inspections follow similar guidelines, there are some variations at the local level, usually centered around specific elements of a unit and that may be focused on in some cities/counties but not in others. In addition to these local variances, intervals between inspections may be shorter or longer in some areas than in others. In order to be fully confident of the standard a property will be measured against, Section 8 landlords should consult HUD’s Property Standards Guide as well as the local guides and forms for their local PHA.
What to Expect in a Section 8 Inspection
Preparing for a Section 8 inspection is essential, but if an owner is careful about maintenance and upkeep on a regular basis, there might not be much more that can be done for an upcoming inspection. Generally speaking, owners should make sure that any building components inside their Section 8 units that are in disrepair or in need of rehabilitation are fully repaired, and, more importantly, owners must ensure that there are no major health and safety hazards on the property.
To further aide in the preparation of Section 8 owners, we’ve made a comprehensive list of the unit and building components will be focused on during an inspection.
Each unit (every room)
Hazards and potential hazards
Electricity & electricity hazards
Potential security issues
Window, ceiling, floor, and wall conditions
Lead-based paint check
Kitchen check, determining if kitchen has stove or range with oven, refrigerator, and sink
Determining if reasonable space is present for safe food storage & preparation
Bathrooms check, determining presence of flush toilet in a closed room, fixed wash basin, and presence of tub or shower
Adequate ventilation/interior air quality
Site and foundation condition
Stair, rail, and porch condition
Exterior surface condition
Unit access, including fire exits
Pest infestation, garbage and debris check
Elevator safety and maintenance
Interior stair condition
HVAC and water heater condition
Plumbing, water supply, and sewer
The official list of areas that may be checked can be found on the HUD Section 8 Inspection Checklist. In addition to the areas on this list, inspectors are still able to cite properties for other hazards, so regardless of an item’s presence on this list, if something on a property seems to be potentially dangerous or a possible violation, it should be taken care of expeditiously. Some common issues cited during inspections include:
Paint quality (flaking is frowned upon, especially if there are children in the unit)
No locks and/or deadbolts on exterior doors
No locks/screens on windows
Improper or faulty pressure release valves on hot water heaters and boilers
Lack of handrails on stairs (both interior and exterior)
Broken carbon monoxide and/or smoke detectors
Bathroom caulking issues
Lack of smoke detectors on every level
Lack of bathroom fan/ventilation
No weathertight windows or doors
It’s a good idea for landlords to specifically check their property for these issues, as these are some of the most common issues a unit/property is likely to be flagged for.
Results of a Section 8 Inspection
Upon completion of a Section 8 inspection, the inspector may give one of three scores to every item they inspect in a unit. The three possible scores are a pass, indicating that an area is fully compliant with Section 8 standards, a fail, indicating that the area in question must be addressed, or inconclusive, which indicates that not enough information is present for the inspector to make an informed decision. In general, an inconclusive score simply means that a consultation with the landlord must be held to get more details about the unit or building component in question. The most important caveat to all of this is that even if only one area in the inspection is regarded as a fail, the entire unit is considered a fail.
In the event of a failed inspection, if the unit is unoccupied, the landlord will need to fix the issues prior to the tenant’s move-in date. For units with tenants in-place, landlords are generally given a set period of time to fix the issue before re-inspection is to occur. Should a unit fail the re-inspection, the Section 8 rental subsidy payments will be temporarily withheld until the issue has been addressed. For the more minor issues, re-inspection date extensions may be permitted on a discretionary basis. When it comes to serious issues, however, an inspector can mandate that repairs be completed in as short a period as 24 hours.
There are some instances where Section 8 inspections result in the mandate that a owner reduce their rent, as the inspection may imply the current rental price is not fair. This, of course, can be remedied by making minor upgrades to the property, such as providing ceiling fans, microwaves, on-site laundry or other amenities. These unit amenities fall under a “Special Amenities” section of the inspection report, and, if they are found to be sufficient, are strong components that help make your intended rate acceptable to HUD.
In Conclusion: Preparation is Key
While Section 8 inspections aren’t generally a cause for concern, they shouldn’t be taken lightly, either. There may not be much to worry about for landlords and/or property management firms if they are regularly maintaining their property and addressing the concerns of their tenants in a timely manner.
Alternatively, if a property is not in the best condition, an inspection could cause some serious issues. Ultimately, with a little preparation and some thoughtful planning, Section 8 inspections are nothing more than a harmless physical for your property, and nothing to worry over.