How to Ask HUD for 'Database Adjustment' to Raise REAC Inspection Score
If your site was inspected recently, you may have lost points for a condition that violates HUD inspection standards, but that a local law permits or even requires. For example, you may have lost points for having window guards on your site’s windows, even though your local law requires window guards. Fortunately, HUD gives you a way to challenge a Real Estate Assessment Center (REAC) inspection score that was lowered because of circumstances that are out of the ordinary, reflect an inconsistency with ownership, or are allowed by local codes. You can ask HUD for what it calls a “database adjustment” to raise your inspection score. We’ll tell you when you can make this kind of request and for what types of conditions. And we’ll provide a Model Letter: Send Letter to REAC Requesting Database Adjustment, that you can adapt for use at your site.
Why It’s Important to Challenge Your Score
You shouldn’t just sit back and do nothing when faced with an inspection score that’s lower because of these types of findings. Challenging these findings is important because the inspection score affects your site in several ways. The level of HUD scrutiny varies with the score category your score falls in. A poor score means more frequent inspections, and can put you at risk of HUD enforcement actions. And various HUD initiatives require certain minimum scores to participate.
REAC inspections are scored using a scale of 1 to 100. The most recent REAC score determines when the next inspection will occur. A score of 90 to 100 means an inspection will occur every three years; a score of 80 to 89 means an inspection will occur every two years; and a score of 79 or below means inspections will occur every year.
A passing score for a REAC Physical Inspection is 60 or above. All inspections with a score of 59 and below are subject to referral to HUD’s Department of Enforcement Center (DEC). If the property scores a 60 or above on the re-inspection, the previous failed inspection will be closed. If the property scores 59 or below (failing score) on the REAC re-inspection, the HUD office will create a Compliance, Disposition, and Enforcement Plan (CDE), with a specified timetable for correcting all deficiencies. This plan for correction will include: (a) 100 percent inspection of all parts of the property (not limited to the areas/units covered in the REAC inspection); and (b) repair of all of the items found to be deficient in the 100 percent inspection, or submission of a plan of corrective action to HUD outlining how and when the issues will be corrected.
When to Request Database Adjustment
You may request a database adjustment to raise your physical inspection score when HUD inspection standards don’t take into account certain aspects of your site, leading to what HUD calls “anomalous” inspection results. The following are circumstances that may entitle you to a database adjustment:
Local code requirements and exceptions. Circumstances include inconsistencies between local code requirements and the UPCS inspection protocol, such as conditions permitted by local variance or license (e.g., child guards allowed on sleeping room windows by local building codes) or preexisting physical features that don’t conform to or are inconsistent with REAC’s physical condition protocol.
Ownership issues. Items that were captured and scored during the inspection that aren’t owned by or the responsibility of the site owner. Examples include sidewalks, roads, fences, retaining walls, and mailboxes owned and maintained by adjoining properties or the city/county/state, and resident-owned appliances that are not maintained by the owner. The owner must have notified the proper authorities regarding the deficient item, and any appliances provided to the tenant must be noted in the lease agreement.
Adverse conditions beyond the owner’s control. Deficiencies negatively affecting the score were caused by circumstances beyond the owner’s control such as damage from a natural disaster or a third-party private or public entity working near a property. The responsibility to correct such conditions still belongs to the owner.
Modernization work in progress. Sites undergoing extensive modernization work in progress, underway at the time of the physical inspection, may qualify for a database adjustment. Routine and/or remedial maintenance before or during the inspection are not appealable. All elements of the unit that aren’t undergoing modernization at the time of the inspection (even if modernization is planned) will be subject to REAC’s physical inspection protocol without adjustment.
These situations are different from those that warrant another kind of challenge, called a “technical review.” Ask for a technical review—not a database adjustment—if you believe an inspector mistakenly found a violation where one didn’t exist.
Send Letter to REAC Requesting Database Adjustment
You must make your request for a database adjustment in writing to REAC. You can expect the response, however, to be made electronically to you. HUD states that this is in an effort to reduce the time in communicating the results of the database adjustments. All responses will be emailed to the originator of the request and the primary contact listed in the inspection summary report will be copied. This is effective Feb. 1, 2016. Appeal requests are to be submitted through mail.
Your request for a database adjustment should, like our Model Letter, include the following information:
Site and inspection information. Give REAC your site’s name, number, address, and inspection number.
Purpose of letter. Tell REAC that you’re seeking a database adjustment to raise your inspection score. Say you believe that an adjustment is warranted for certain finding(s) made during the inspection, and specify the total points deducted by the inspector for the finding(s).
Description of defect(s). Describe the inspection defects that you want REAC to review, including the location and unit number, if applicable.
Points deducted. Specify the number of points you lost for each defect.
Description of reasons for adjustment. Tell REAC why you think your score should be adjusted. Our Model Letter claims that one of the conditions the inspector cited is actually required by local ordinance, and the other is for a damaged fence that the site doesn’t own.
Significant increase in score. If granting a database adjustment would “significantly increase” your score, then say so in the letter. If applicable, describe how correcting the errors will bring the site’s score across an “administratively significant threshold” or raise the score by 10 points or more. Our Model Letter assumes correcting both errors will raise the score by seven points, and bring it over the 60-point threshold. If a database adjustment won’t significantly improve your score, omit this paragraph.
Include documentation. Include evidence to support your claim. This evidence may include photographs or written material from such objective sources as fire marshals, building code officials, manufacturers, or service companies. For example, if you get cited for a tripping hazard on a sidewalk, you can submit an executed agreement, dated prior to the date of the inspection and with appropriate contact information, between the city and the owner stating that the city owns and is responsible for the sidewalks or a letter from the city claiming ownership. In this instance, you must also submit a letter from the owner dated prior to the inspection reflecting a request for the sidewalk to be repaired or a letter from the city with information regarding repair of the sidewalk with appropriate contact information.
Deadline. Submit your letter to REAC within 45 days from the physical inspection report release date to the following address: U.S. Housing and Urban Development/PIH/REAC; Attn: Technical Assistance Center/TR/DBA; 550 12th Street S.W.; Suite 100; Washington, DC 20410.
What HUD Will Do
REAC will review your request to make sure there are no issues for technical review. If the REAC evaluation determines that the request is justified and, if corrected, would result in a significant improvement in the site’s overall score, REAC will take one or a combination of the following actions:
- Schedule a new inspection;
- Correct the physical inspection report;
- Issue a corrected physical condition score; or
- Issue a corrected Public Housing Assessment System score.
See The Model Tools For This Article
|Send Letter to REAC Requesting Database Adjustment|