Five Tips on Conducting Annual Unit Inspections
If you’re like most owners or managers of assisted sites, you probably conduct annual inspections of the units at your site. Owners perform unit inspections on at least an annual basis to determine whether the appliances and equipment in the unit are functioning properly and to assess whether a component needs to be repaired or replaced. This is also an opportunity to determine any damage to the unit caused by the tenant’s abuse or negligence and, if so, make the necessary repairs and bill the tenant for the cost of the repairs [HUD Handbook 4350.3, par. 6-29(A)(3)].
You may have to do these inspections because your contract administrator or local HUD office interprets HUD Handbook 4350.3 as requiring them. Or you may just think they’re a good way to catch and prevent maintenance problems.
Either way, conducting unit inspections takes a lot of time. So it’s important to make the most of your inspections. Here are five tips you can follow when conducting unit inspections.
Tip #1: Notify Residents of Inspection
The HUD model family lease requires that you notify residents before you inspect their units [HUD Handbook 4350.3, app. 4A, par. 20]. Even if your site doesn’t use the model family lease, it’s a good idea to notify your residents before you inspect their units. Language in the other HUD leases implies you should do this. For example, the leases give residents a right to quiet enjoyment of their units. Also, whatever lease you use, give the notice in writing, so you have proof that you gave reasonable advance notice you your intent to enter the unit. And check with your attorney about what requirements, if any, local law or ordinances set out about notifying residents before inspecting their units.
Neither the HUD family lease nor Handbook 4350.3 specifically say how to notify residents. Here are some suggestions:
- Post a letter in a conspicuous place at your site (for example, by the mailboxes) giving the date and approximate time that you’ll conduct inspections of certain units (for example, that you’ll inspect all first floor units on July 1, 2016, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.);
- Send residents letters letting them know the date and approximate time you’ll inspect units; or
- Include this information on one of the recertification reminder notices you give residents.
Be sure to keep copies of your written notices to residents about the unit inspections in case you’re ever questioned about whether you gave notice.
Tip #2: Use Form to Guide Inspection
To help make sure that your inspection is thorough, use a form to guide it. On the form, list all the items in the unit that you want to look at during the inspection. With slight modifications, you can use the move-in/move-out inspection form at appendix 5 to Handbook 4350.3 for the annual unit inspection. Among other things, cross out the references to “move-in” and “move-out” and replace them with “inspection as of [insert date].” If you prefer, you can design your own form just for annual unit inspections.
If possible, after filling in the results of an inspection, get the resident’s signature on the form. A resident who has signed a completed form is less likely to argue that the form doesn’t accurately depict the unit’s condition. This is important if you must charge the resident to repair damage she caused by her negligence or abuse or if you must evict the resident for poor maintenance of her unit.
Tip #3: Encourage Residents to Be Present During Inspections
HUD doesn’t require that residents be present in their units during your inspection, but it’s a good idea to encourage residents to be there. Having the resident present can help you:
Identify maintenance problems. If the resident is present, she can point out any maintenance problem she has been having in the unit that she hasn’t reported and which you may not catch on your own. This will help you avoid HUD inspectors finding the maintenance problem and counting it against you.
Teach the resident how to care for unit. During the inspection, you can point out ways that the resident can better maintain the unit (for example, by explaining how to properly clean the oven) and you can answer any questions the resident has about maintaining the unit.
Editor’s Note: HUD requires that residents be present for move-in inspections, even though it doesn’t require that for periodic unit inspection [Handbook 4350.3, par. 6-29(C)(1)]. And if a resident requests it, you must allow her to attend a move-out inspection [Handbook 4350.3, par. 6-29(D)(1)].
Tip #4: Check if Elderly Residents Need Help Caring for Units
During unit inspections, check whether your elderly residents are having difficulty maintaining their units and need help. As elderly residents age, their ability to maintain their units can deteriorate. For example, they may be having trouble cleaning their units, taking out garbage, or caring for appliances. And their failure to do these things can lead to maintenance problems like rodent and insect infestation.
If you believe elderly residents need help, get them assistance from a service coordinator, family member, or an adult services agency. Taking this step will not only help the residents but may also prevent future maintenance problems at your site. You also might avoid having to evict such residents for not taking proper care of their units.
Tip #5: Perform Routine Maintenance Tasks While Conducting Annual Inspection
To cut down on the number of times you must enter your residents’ units, do routine maintenance tasks while conducting an annual inspection. For example, replace filters in in-unit furnaces, and batteries in smoke detectors, check inventory of appliances, and check caulking in bathrooms. By doing these tasks at the same time as the inspection, you’ll not only save time but avoid inconveniencing residents with an extra visit to their units.