Tenants and Landlords ask lots of questions about HQS inspections. Here are a few of the most common questions and answers:
1. What are you looking for?
The HQS Inspector will want to look through each room of the entire apartment including the basement, common rooms (like laundry rooms) and any areas which are associated with the apartment such as entry halls. He/she will be evaluating the apartment using the national HQS protocol (HQS standards) and also in some cases local or state requirements which are more stringent than HQS. There are many things to evaluate. In a nutshell, the HQS Inspector will want to determine whether or not required items are present in the apartment, that every item present in the apartment works and that the apartment is 'safe, sanitary and decent'.
2. Do you do a lead paint inspection?
The HQS Inspector will not do a lead paint inspection (an inspection to determine if lead paint is present on any painted surface) of the apartment. He/she is not permitted to do that sort of inspection. For the purposes of HQS Inspection, the Inspector will assume that all painted surfaces contain lead-based paint. The HQS Inspector WILL DO a Visual Assessment of all painted surfaces IF there is a child under 6 or a pregnant woman living in or expected to live in the apartment and if the building was built before 1978. The lead paint policies of HUD and the Housing Authority are intended to be Proactive about the possible presence of lead paint hazards in any subsidized living unit. Each Housing Authority wants to head off the serious problems of lead paint exposure at the pass, and one way to do that is to require that ALL painted surfaces be STABILIZED- in apartments that were built in 1978 or before in which a pregnant woman or a child under 6 is living or expected to live- in these cases, in a nutshell, there should be NO DETERIORATED PAINT in the interior of the apartment or on the exterior of the building.
As paint breaks down (becomes deteriorated) it releases dust. If the deteriorated paint contains lead, it releases lead dust into the living unit. Lead dust, released from deteriorated lead-based paint is the most common way that human beings ingest lead and in some cases get sick.
The HQS Inspector will do a Visual Assessment in apartments when the conditions warrant. If there is ANY deteriorated paint, he/she will require that the surface and the substrate (surface under the paint) be repaired. Property owners must use lead safe practices when repairing painted surfaces which are over 2 SF or over 10% of the area of any component of any room on the interior and any deteriorated painted surfaces over 20 SF on the exterior. Even seemingly minor chips and cracks and peeling paint must be stabilized as a part of an ongoing effort to keep all painted surfaces intact.
In many cases, the HQS Inspector will require that a CLEARANCE be done after the paint is stabilized. On the interior of the apartment the clearance will include a new Visual Inspection and taking of Dust Wipes through the whole apartment (two samples per room in up to four rooms). When dust wipes are taken, they are sent to a laboratory to be analyzed. If the samples come back with a higher concentration of lead dust than the EPA allows, the area must be thoroughly re-cleaned and dust wipes must be taken again. On the exterior, clearance is done with a new Visual Assessment only.
The HQS Inspector will assume that all painted surfaces in, on or attached to any building built in 1978 or before contain lead-based paint. That includes ALL painted surfaces that are attached to the building. You may say 'that deck was built a few of years ago and we painted it- I know there is no lead paint there'. Maybe so. But HQS inspectors cannot determine what paint is lead-based and what is not. If the painted surface is deteriorated, the HQS Inspector will Fail it. He/She will have to assume that all painted surfaces contain lead paint. He/She make that assumption because he/she is not permitted by state law to test these surfaces to see if there is lead based paint on them. In most states, including New Hampshire, that kind of testing must be done by a state licensed Lead Paint Inspector or Risk Assessor.
3. Only a few items Failed- Does that mean we Passed?
No. In an HQS Inspection any one or more deficiencies that fail will Fail the entire inspection.
4. The apartment is up to Code. It should pass no problem. Right?
An HQS Inspection is not a 'Code' inspection. There are many types of Codes, Ordinances Laws and Protocols that apply to housing units in your local area such as Building Codes, Housing Ordinances, State Fire Codes and so forth. As a rule, the HQS Inspection follows the HQS Protocol that you will find on the HUD checklist on Form 52580. The HQS protocol is the same across the United States. HQS does allow for State and local code requirements which are more stringent than HQS, for example-State Fire Codes regarding Smoke Detectors and 2nd Means of Egress. In these cases, the HQS Inspector will enforce the more stringent requirements.
5. Do you inspect all the apartments in the building?
No. The HQS Inspector will inspect the apartment subsidized under the HCV Program only. That inspection will not include the other apartments in the building. It will include common areas, basements and exterior areas which would be used by the tenants of the subsidized apartment and utility areas.
6. My neighbor's apartment has some problems. Will you report those too?
As a rule, No. While problems in the neighboring apartments might be important, the HQS Inspector is concerned with the condition of the subsidized apartment.
7. 'This apartment is Section 8 approved' (We had an HQS inspection for another tenant sometime before) OR 'This is a brand new building'. Do you still need to come and do an inspection?
A new HQS Inspection is required in both cases. The HQS Inspection requirement always applies even if the apartment has been inspected in the past or if the building is new.
8. The HQS inspection is done. What's the next step?
The HQS inspection report will be given to the appropriate Housing Authority. The landlord will receive notice of any and all deficiencies (Fail items) including the time allotted for repairs to be completed by the Housing Authority. Often the HQS Inspection is the last step in the rent-up process. Both tenant and landlord should check with the appropriate person at the Housing Authority before proceeding. Different Housing Authorities have different policies and procedures regarding rent-up. It is important for all parties to follow the procedures correctly.
9. This building has been here a long time. Does that mean everything in all the apartments is grandfathered?
No. There is no 'grandfathering' provision in HQS. Apartments in older buildings will be evaluated according to HQS just like any other building.
10. What if the tenant broke that window or put that hole in the wall?
The Landlord and the tenant enter into a lease which is binding on both parties just like any lease. If damage to the apartment occurs, it should be handled according to the provisions in the lease. The Landlord is not penalized by the Housing Authority for tenant damage, but all damages need to be appropriately corrected. For example, the HQS Inspector will Fail a broken window regardless of who broke it. If the window was broken by the tenant, it is normally up to the Landlord and the tenant to work out a way to get the window fixed within the allotted time and that is normally done according to the provisions in the lease.
11. How long do I have to fix these things?
Each Housing Authority has specific policies regarding completing repairs after an HQS Inspection. Life Threatening items such as malfunctioning smoke detectors usually must be repaired within 24 hours. Standard deficiencies such as a burner on a stove that does not operate usually must be repaired within 30 days. It is a good idea to check with the Housing Authority regarding their specific policy.
12. The Fail items have been repaired. What happens now?
The Housing Authority will either require a physical 're-check' of the apartment or require Landlord certification that the work has been completed. When a physical re-check is done only the items which failed the inspection are checked. The HQS Inspector will check the Failed items from the Failed inspection. He/she will not conduct a complete new inspection.
If the Housing Authority requires certification of repairs, they will ask the Landlord to certify in writing that all the repairs have been completed.