HUD Issues HOTMA Implementation Provisions for Voucher Programs
HUD published a notice in the Federal Register on Jan. 18 that implements many provisions of the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act of 2016 (HOTMA) that pertain to the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) tenant-based and project-based voucher (PBV) programs.
With regard to inspections, HOTMA made changes affecting both HCV tenant-based and PBV assistance and to the PBV program in general. A PHA must inspect a unit to determine that it meets HUD’s Housing Quality Standards (HQS) before the PHA may make a housing assistance payment. However, HOTMA provides an exception to this requirement that allows a PHA to approve a voucher-assisted tenancy and begin making housing assistance payments on a unit that fails an initial HQS inspection if the deficiencies are not life-threatening.
If a PHA makes payments under this exception, the PHA must withhold assistance payments if the non-life-threatening deficiencies are not corrected within 30 days of the PHA notifying the owner of a unit’s failure to comply with the HQS. A PHA may establish a maximum amount of time that it will withhold payments before terminating a HAP contract, but a HAP contract may not continue more than 180 days. Once a unit is in compliance, a PHA may reimburse the owner for the period during which payments were withheld.
The notice defines 10 life-threatening conditions, including various gas leaks and electrical hazards, inoperable or missing smoke detectors or carbon monoxide detectors, lack of alternative means of exit in case of a fire, and deteriorated paint in a unit built before 1978 that is to be occupied by a family with a child under 6 years of age. If a PHA chooses to implement the inspection exception allowed by HOTMA, its administrative plan must list the specific life-threatening conditions to be considered during HQS inspections. The PHA must also use those specific life-threatening conditions when conducting ongoing HQS inspections, not just initial inspections.
If an initial inspection identifies non-life-threatening deficiencies, a PHA must provide a list of the deficiencies to the household and offer the household an opportunity to decline a lease without jeopardizing its voucher. If the owner fails to correct the non-life-threatening deficiencies within the time period specified by the PHA, the PHA must notify the household that the PHA will terminate the HAP contract and the family will have to move to another unit.
HOTMA also allows a unit to be occupied prior to completion of an inspection if the unit passed an alternative inspection method within the previous 24 months. A PHA must still inspect the unit within 15 days of receiving a Request for Tenancy Approval. Once the unit passes an HQS, a PHA may make retroactive assistance payments. A PHA may rely on inspections of housing assisted under the HOME Investment Partnerships (HOME) program or Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) program, as well as another HUD-approved method proposed by the PHA.