A Closer Look at Unit Inspections under the Section 8 Voucher Reform Act

July 28, 2009
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Last week’s TCHMI Online Exclusive reported the passage of the Section 8 Voucher Reform Act of 2009 (H.R. 3045) by the House of Representatives’ Financial Services Committee. The legislation will probably go to the House floor for a vote after the August recess. This week, TCHMI Online takes a closer look at sections of the act and some of the key changes introduced by this proposed legislation as they pertain to unit inspections.

Initial Inspections of Units
The proposed legislation would amend Section 8(o)(8) of the U.S. Housing Act of 1937 by inserting a new subparagraph regarding initial unit inspections as follows: For each unit for which a housing assistance payment contract is established, the public housing agency (or other entity) shall inspect the unit before any assistance payment is made to determine whether the unit meets housing quality standards.

If a unit does not meet those standards, assistance payments may be made for the unit if the failure to meet those standards does not involve life-threatening conditions.

If the housing agency starts making assistance payments, it may suspend them after 30 days if any problem(s) found in the unit during the initial inspection has not been corrected.

Agencies will also be permitted to use alternative inspection methods if they follow the requirements set by a federal, state, or local housing assistance program (including the HOME investment partnerships program and the low-income housing tax credit program under section 42 of the IRC).

Biennial Inspections
Public housing agencies will be required to make inspections no less than biennially during the term of the housing assistance payments. In addition, the agency will need to retain the inspection records for “a reasonable time” and shall make them available upon request to HUD, the inspector general, or any auditor conducting an audit under section 5(h).

If a household complains to a public housing agency because their unit does not comply with housing quality standards, the agency will be required to inspect the unit within 24 hours if the condition is life-threatening and within 15 days if the condition is non-life-threatening after receiving the complaint.

Use of Abated Assistance for Repairs
Public housing agencies would be permitted to use abated assistance payments to make repairs themselves to dwelling units or to hire an outside contractor to have repairs made.