Fall has fallen… bringing with it lower temperatures, chilly breezes, and the splendor of autumn colors. This can only mean one thing… “Old Man Winter” is not far behind and for PHAs everywhere, a spike in emergency inspections will soon be on the horizon.
Is your agency ready?
What are Emergency Inspections?
When a PHA receives any type of complaint regarding a unit, the PHA must conduct an inspection to investigate the complaint. No matter the source of the complaint, if it is determined to be life-threatening, this is considered an emergency inspection, and the failed items must be addressed within 24 hours.
What constitutes an emergency can vary depending on where your agency is located. However, as a general rule, a complaint is considered critical if the deficiency creates an immediate life-threatening circumstance for the resident.
There are a couple of specific items and/or conditions that HUD defines as hazardous for a family’s health and safety. If any of the below items are identified during the course of an inspection, the inspector is required to return within 24 hours to check the status of any emergency fail item(s).
This list includes:
- Lack of security for the unit
- Ceiling in imminent danger of falling
- Major plumbing leaks or flooding
- Gas leak or fumes
- Electrical problems that could cause shock or fire
- No heat when weather dictates
- Utilities turned off (will be marked either tenant or owner responsibility)
- No hot water
- Broken glass where it can cause injury
- Obstacle preventing tenant entrance or exit
- No functioning toilet in the unit
- No working smoke or CO detector on each floor
- Any other life-threatening issue cited by other agencies with jurisdiction (this is where climate or area-specific criteria would apply)
The items bolded are considered high-risk items for the colder months, especially in more extreme climates. As a result, your agency may see a rise in complaints and/or emergency inspections to address these issues.
Emergency inspections may not occur very often, but, when they are needed, everyone has to work on a tight schedule to meet HUD’s requirements. It is even likely that your tenants, landlords, or inspections team may need to brush up on policy and procedures.
While emergencies are, by definition, unexpected, there are a few things your agency can do to get ahead of any potential problems.
Expect the Unexpected
One of the best things you can do to get ahead of emergency inspection issues is to get your participants involved. This would be the perfect time to send out communications to both your participating tenants and your landlords educating them about potential risks of the upcoming season and what to expect if an emergency inspection is needed.
Many landlords aren’t as informed as they should be when going into the HCV program. It would be a great idea to take this opportunity to educate your landlords on the emergency inspection process and what their responsibilities are, should an emergency arise. Include for them, a timeline for resolution, your agency’s contact information, and a reminder of what types of issues are considered emergencies.
Also, encourage your landlords to check in with their tenants on any concerns they might have about the unit’s condition or safety. If landlords are able to identify potential problems ahead of time, it would allow them to address those issues early, rather than waiting until an emergency issue threatens the well-being of the tenant and the HAP for the landlord.
Even tenants who have been a part of the program for many years may not have any prior experience with emergency inspections. Educate them on what types of issues are considered life-threatening and what their responsibility is in the emergency inspection process. This is also a great opportunity to encourage them to know what their lease says about repairs. Be sure to include your agency’s policy and procedure on emergency inspections, the proper point of contact for your agency, and the procedure for making a complaint.
Advise your tenants it’s best to reach out to their landlords with any HQS issues they are experiencing and not to wait too long to report any problems.
If you haven’t conducted a refresher for your inspections department, now is the time to ensure they are fully trained and able to respond to any emergencies efficiently and with expertise. Make sure everyone is fully aware of the HUD regulations, all communications requirements are up-to-date, and your department is fully staffed.
Keeping Everyone Safe
Getting prepared for the possibility of emergency inspections isn’t something we talk about a lot in the industry. But helping your agency and participants prepare for the unexpected can drastically reduce any confusion when potential emergencies arise down the line. Also, it will most certainly lighten the load for your inspections team.