How to Comply with New NSPIRE Smoke Detector Standards
Last August, HUD launched a demonstration—that is, a pilot program—to test new approaches for making certain PHAs and private owners provide housing that’s safe and livable and to overhaul HUD’s Real Estate Assessment Center (REAC) physical inspection protocol. The change was prompted by negative press reports about substandard subsidized properties and HUD’s concerns that owners are “gaming the system” to make minimal repairs to pass inspections.
HUD intends to replace REAC inspections with a new physical inspection protocol known as the National Standards for the Physical Inspection of Real Estate (NSPIRE), which will feature new standards, protocols, and processes that will apply to HUD’s public housing and HUD-assisted and FHA-insured multifamily portfolios.
Recently, HUD released a new standard for smoke detectors under the NSPIRE inspection standards.
NSPIRE will move inspections from the current protocol, Uniform Physical Conditions Standards (UPCS,) to a more streamlined system focused on health and safety items. But it’s also a change to an overall process focused on routine maintenance practices, and away from a process focused on periodic reviews. This involves:
- Focusing the inspection process more on health and safety and less on capital repair issues;
- Focusing report scoring more on units;
- Requiring most issues to be repaired within either 24 hours or 30 days;
- Setting new self-inspection and reporting rules that require active ongoing maintenance;
- Replacing the current Reverse Auction Program model with a new Inspection Procurement and Quality Assurance process.
Inspection Standards for Smoke Detectors
During the NSPIRE Demonstration, HUD will inspect approximately 4,500 properties from a pool of nationwide volunteers who are willing to adopt the new physical inspection standards at their sites. HUD's new standard for smoke detectors under NSPIRE became effective on July 31. The standards can be found at www.hud.gov/sites/dfiles/PIH/documents/200730_NSPIRE_Standard_V1.3_Smoke-Alarm.pdf. The new standards for smoke detectors may exceed your local code requirements. UPCS required one smoke detector per floor on each living level. Under NSPIRE this requirement is extended to one per bedroom and one per floor. On levels without bedrooms, smoke alarms must be present in the living room (or den or family room) or near the stairway to the upper level.
The standards also state that the smoke alarm should be installed high on walls or ceilings. If mounted on the ceiling, then the alarm must be greater than 4 inches from the wall. And if mounted on the wall, then it can’t be closer than 4 inches or greater than 12 inches from the ceiling. The standards also specify that the smoke alarm should be installed at least 10 feet from a cooking appliance. In addition, smoke alarms shouldn’t be installed near windows, doors, or ducts where drafts might interfere with their operation; and they shouldn’t be painted or have stickers or other decorations present.
Remember, smoke detectors that are missing, inoperable, or not installed correctly are a “Life Threatening” hazard that must be mitigated within 24 hours.