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Housing Quality Standards Explained

Housing quality standards (HQS) are determined by the HUD. Any property/housing unit that receives federal funding must meet the HUD’s standards before a voucher or other assistance (such as an FHA Loan) is provided by the government. The standards ensure that a property is habitable and safe for all tenants.

For Section 8 properties, the housing standards are primarily to protect lower-income families by ensuring that their affordable housing is safe, secure and sound. Without these protections, there would be families living in unacceptably poor housing conditions. In the case of government insured loans, like FHA Loans, the Federal Housing Administration has an additional incentive of protecting their own investment. The FHA must ensure that the property is in good condition because the home is collateral on the loan. If the homeowner defaults the lender will have to cease the home and sell it to cover the costs of the loan.

What are the Standards?

The standards apply to single housing units in addition to multi-family/tenant properties. Mobile homes, congregate housing (i.e.: communities or condominiums) and shared housing also fall under the purview of these standards set forth by the Housing Choice Voucher program (commonly referred to as Section 8 housing).

HUD Housing Quality Standards Checklist

To meet HQS, a property must undergo an inspection that will review conditions such as:

  • the year the property was built
  • the number of children under the age of six who reside in the home
  • electrical hazards
  • window, ceiling, wall and floor conditions
  • paint composition (lead-based)
  • proper ventilation
  • the presence of smoke detectors
  • fire exits
  • air quality
  • water supply

Bathrooms

HUD provisions require that there are facilities (i.e.: bathrooms) in which human waste can be properly disposed of and that said facilities are private. HUD HQS also dictate that every unit/site receiving federal funding contain a functional shower/tub with hot and cold water.

Kitchen

Spaces in which food can be stored, prepared and served is also a requirement needed to meet the HUD’s standards.

Everything inside of the dwelling must meet health and safety standards in order to receive/continue receiving federal assistance.

Who Checks For These standards?

Public Housing Authorities/Agencies (PHA) are responsible for inspecting HQS dwellings. The PHA will either send one of their own representatives to inspect a site or hire an outside inspector to get the job done.

What is a Public Housing Authority (PHA)?

A Public Housing Authority/Agency is an independent, non-profit entity that works with and is regulated by the federal government to ensure minimum housing health and safety requirements are met for federally funded housing options.

Contacting your local PHA

For questions or additional information, contact your local PHA by state.

How Often Do Inspections Occur?

Inspections occur at a couple of different intervals including before someone moves into Section 8 or another federally funded housing program and once a year for the duration of time the tenant lives in the home.

An inspection will also be conducted if either a tenant or landlord files a complaint regarding health or safety issues within a dwelling.

Types of Inspections

An initial inspection occurs when someone with a Housing Choice Voucher (HCV, also known as Section 8) informs their local PHA that they would like to move into a dwelling.

Once a space passes the initial inspection and the tenant moves in, annual inspections will take place to ensure the upkeep of health and safety standards.

There are also special inspections which occur when a complaint is made about the living condition of a dwelling or for the purposes of quality control.

Are Inspections Strictly Pass/Fail?

Inspectors have three options when making a final assessment about a dwelling. The space will either pass, fail or be labeled “inconclusive” per the inspector. If a space is deemed “inconclusive,” it means that the inspector needs more information before passing or failing a dwelling per housing quality standards.

A failed inspection could be caused by a single item on the HQS checklist that does not meet the minimum health and safety requirements. The inspector will provide you with a list of reasons why you failed the inspection and a deadline by which to have the necessary repairs made.

Once updates have been made, the inspector will return to assess the dwelling and let you know whether you pass, fail or need to make additional improvements.

When Do These Standards Apply?

Housing quality standards are applied to Section 8 housing, any home purchased using federally funded programs such as FHA loans, VA loans and USDA loans.

To Whom Do These Standards Not Apply?

HQS do not apply to properties that are privately owned and/or purchased and do not use any federal loan assistance programs.

Legal References

Cornell Law School has compiled a complete list of laws pertaining to housing quality standards which range from code provisions to minutiae such as window and flooring requirements.

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