HUD Issues Update on REAC Inspections During Pandemic
In June 2021, HUD resumed physical inspections for public housing and multifamily housing after a temporary pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They began with inspections of designated high-priority sites. These sites were chosen based on a number of factors such as insured status, time elapsed since the last inspection, risk indicators, field office inquiries, PHA requested inspections, and historic physical inspection scores.
After the physical inspections resumed, in November 2021, the World Health Organization named the omicron variant of COVID-19. Since then, it’s spread around the world and caused record peaks in cases in many places. The variant is now declining just as quickly, but prospects for the rest of the year and beyond depend on whether future variants will emerge. Against this backdrop and as HUD’s been ramping up inspection capacity, HUD’s Office of Multifamily Housing recently issued an informational update on resident and owner responsibilities for Real Estate Assessment Center (REAC) inspections during the pandemic.
The update was issued in response to an increase in the volume of questions regarding how HUD is balancing the risk of COVID-19 with its mandate to perform physical inspections of sites to ensure HUD’s standard of providing decent, safe, and sanitary housing in good repair is maintained. The information also covered the postponement or adjustment process, such as how to request a deferral of a scheduled REAC inspection and what criteria HUD uses in determining whether to grant a deferral.
When REAC inspections rolled out on June 1, 2021, flexible COVID-19-related protocols were implemented, such as providing a 28-day advance notice to property managers and an option for residents to opt out of having their unit inspected. These flexibilities still apply.
As a resident of a HUD-assisted multifamily housing property, residents have the right to be given reasonable notice, in writing, of any non-emergency inspection or other entry into the residents’ apartment. According to HUD, residents should communicate any health or related concerns to site staff ahead of inspections. In these instances, the inspector will work with site staff to select alternate units. Also, residents who are home may elect to leave or stay in the unit during the inspection.
In addition, at the time of inspection, the inspector and site staff member will practice safe distancing and wear personal protective equipment consistent with HUD’s safety protocols, which were informed by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance.
For each inspection, there will be three checkpoints for scheduling. The first is at 28 days, then again at 14 days, and finally two days before the scheduled inspection date. These times are for owners and staff to communicate to the inspector if there are any COVID-related concerns.
If property managers have additional questions, they are instructed to contact HUD’s Technical Assistance Center (TAC) at 888-245-4860 or via email at REAC_TAC@hud.gov. On the day of an inspection, inspectors must report any relevant COVID-19 cases to the TAC.
Requests to postpone inspections. HUD has developed a process for assessing circumstances where a deferral or cancellation of an inspection may be required due to COVID-19. This review is performed on a case-by-case basis based on information provided by the owner and the individual circumstances presented. This process balances the risks presented by the COVID-19 pandemic against the risk of not conducting inspections. HUD considers factors such as available alternate units, conditions at the property, property elements, property designation status, etc. when determining whether adjusting the inspection date is justified. Generally speaking, if HUD determines that it will be able to conduct an inspection at the property in a safe manner, the inspection will proceed as scheduled.
HUD follows a five-step process in making its determination as to whether the scheduled REAC inspection should proceed:
Step 1: The assigned REAC inspector will reach out to the property to schedule an inspection at least 28 days in advance and offer a date for inspection. If the owner determines this date isn’t suitable, an alternative date within five days of the original proposal will be offered. Once the date is set, the inspector issues the 28-day notification to the property with the inspection date.
Step 2: The owner or agent should raise any COVID-19-related concerns at the 14- or two-day protocol-based check-ins for discussion as to whether a deferral or cancellation is appropriate. REAC will work with the property and inspector to facilitate schedule adjustments as necessary.
Step 3: As part of the evaluation process, REAC will coordinate with HUD’s multifamily leadership to ensure it evaluates all relevant factors.
Step 4: On the day of the inspection, the inspector is required to report to the TAC any known cases of COVID-19 at the property.
Step 5: REAC TAC reviews the reported COVID-19 cases at the property and documents the units and buildings affected. Based on this information, REAC TAC coordinates with the property and inspector if additional discussions are warranted.