HUD Multifamily Issues Updated COVID-19 FAQs
On Oct. 14, HUD issued updated COVID-19 FAQs for multifamily housing providers. This is the eighth update to the FAQs. HUD had last issued updated FAQs on July 31. HUD has been using this document to address the concerns of owners, staff, and residents during the pandemic.
The latest version updates nine questions and adds 13 new questions, nine of which address the CDC Eviction Moratorium Order that was issued on Sept. 4. Here’s a rundown of the updated questions of interest to owners and managers.
Emergency Planning and Confirmed COVID-19 Cases
Regarding emergency preparedness steps that owners should take, HUD has updated its FAQ to include newer recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for Multifamily Housing providers. The CDC’s guidance can be found at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/multifamily-housing.html.
The CDC acknowledges that multifamily housing poses a challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic due to potential for increased risk of exposure for residents and staff. The guiding principles of the CDC’s recommendations include the facts that older adults and groups experiencing disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, and that communal spaces, community activities, and close living quarters in multifamily housing increase the risk of getting and spreading the virus due to person-to-person spread through respiratory droplets.
The CDC recommendations also address confirmed cases on site. In addition to the CDC’s recommendations with regard to confirmed cases at your site, HUD suggests that owners and agents immediately notify the local health department and communicate with staff, residents, volunteers, and visitors about potential COVID-19 exposure, while maintaining the confidentiality of the sick person as required by the Americans With Disabilities Act, Fair Housing Act, and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, as applicable. Local health officials will help determine the appropriate course of action for risk assessment and public health management in the site.
On-Site Flu Shots and COVID-19 Testing
In HUD’s FAQs, the agency says that temporary use of property common areas, parking lots, and vacant offices by providers of healthcare services to provide flu shots and/or COVID-19 testing to residents is allowed. But the services must not affect site operating costs beyond budgeted and approved supportive services funds. In addition, owners should ensure that their testing site has a Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) certificate of waiver or is covered by another facility’s CLIA certificate. And HUD encourages owners to consult with their legal counsel before hosting healthcare services on site.
CDC Eviction Moratorium
The new HUD FAQs devote a number of questions to the CDC’s eviction moratorium in place from Sept. 4 through Dec. 31. Here’s a brief overview of what the CDC’s order (“Temporary Halt in Residential Evictions To Prevent the Further Spread of COVID-19”) entails and how it applies to HUD-assisted sites.
Applicability. The CDC’s eviction order applies to all HUD Multifamily Housing programs. The moratorium applies only to nonpayment of rent; evictions for other lease violations can still continue. Any evictions for nonpayment of rent that were initiated before Sept. 4, 2020, but have yet to be completed, are subject to the CDC’s order. Any eviction that occurred before Sept. 4, 2020, is not subject to the order.
Late fees. Unlike during the previous CARES Act eviction moratorium, late fees can still be charged during the CDC ban.
Repayment agreements. HUD encourages owners and agents to consider entering into repayment agreements for all outstanding payments with residents facing financial difficulties during the COVID-19 National Emergency.
Resident notification. While the CDC order doesn’t mandate resident notification, HUD strongly encourages owners and agents to notify their residents that the CDC eviction moratorium is in place and that the declaration needs to be submitted.
Resident protections. Under the order, HUD-assisted residents must sign and submit a declaration to receive the eviction protections. The signed declaration must be submitted to the owner or management agent; until the declaration is signed and submitted to the owner or agent, the CDC eviction protection is not in place. Owners and agents are not required to verify the certifications in the declaration. The order states that residents must make a certification to the truthfulness of the information provided in the declaration under the penalty of perjury.
Resumption of Physical Inspections
The FAQ update brings the FAQs in line with HUD’s Real Estate Assessment Center (REAC) August announcement of the resumption of physical inspections. REAC resumed physical inspections on Oct. 5.
HUD is prioritizing states and localities for inspections where the latest COVID-19 public health data show that it’s safest to do so. The resumption of physical inspections follows a guide that categorizes states and localities into four risk categories from low risk to high risk; the guide is updated weekly.
For instances where a Notice of Default for an inspection was issued prior to the earlier suspension of physical inspections, the FAQ says that HUD will continue to review and approve or deny owner repair plans when all deficiencies can’t be corrected in 60 days. But with the resumption of physical inspections on Oct. 5, HUD won’t approve any extensions where an owner/agent is having difficulty entering units. In these cases, owners receiving a Notice of Violation (NOV) and/or Notice of Default (NOD) based on a site’s physical conditions must follow the corrective actions enumerated in the NOV/NOD within the time specified.
At a minimum, the owner must conduct a 100 percent unit inspection or survey of the property and submit the survey report to HUD. The NOV/NOD may require the correction of all physical deficiencies by a specified date or that the owner submit a repair plan for HUD’s review and approval.
Management and Occupancy Reviews
The FAQ says that HUD will, until Dec. 31 (or such later date as HUD may determine), allow performance-based contract administrators (PBCAs) and HUD staff to conduct on-site MORs, without entering resident units. The FAQ reiterates those alternative methods from HUD’s May 22 memo to owners and agents of sites administered by PBCAs and HUD Multifamily Regional Center and Satellite Office Directors. The alternative manner MOR includes the following:
- For REAC follow-up, in determining whether Exigent Health & Safety (EH&S) and other deficiencies have been corrected, the PBCA must attempt follow-up on those affected units via contact directly with the resident by way of phone or email and document the results or attempts made on the MOR report. HUD understands that this method will require cooperation from both the owner in obtaining a contact number or email for the residents and from the residents when contact is made.
- A physical on-site visit to the site must still occur to document the physical conditions, general appearance, and security of the site and should include a visual assessment of each building and grounds of the property, but does not require an assessment of resident units.
- An on-site entrance/exit interview should occur except in instances where state or local law or ordinances prevent such meetings. In instances where these interviews are prohibited from occurring on-site, they should be conducted by telephone or email and documented as such in the MOR report.
- Tenant file review must be completed on-site, as HUD is not authorizing the transfer, either electronically or physically, of tenant files off-site. This portion of the review can be completed without contact with management staff. The PBCA will identify the files for review in advance and those files can be selected and left in a secured location for the PBCA staff’s access on-site.
- All other portions of the MOR, Desk Review, and on-site review must be completed in their entirety. This includes an on-site review of tenant files.
Hazard Pay and Calculation of Income
On whether hazard pay should be included in the calculation of a resident’s income, HUD’s FAQ says that it should. HUD stated that hazard pay has historically been included in income calculation and is not broadly excludable under 24 CFR §5.609. HUD also states that owners/agents should consider whether the pay increase is temporary or recurring in determining whether it will trigger an interim recertification per HUD Handbook 4350.3.
Financial Reporting Deadline Extensions
For audited financial reporting, deadlines had previously been extended through Sept. 30. In the most recent FAQ, HUD states that it’s allowing further extensions only on a case-by-case basis through the REAC-FASS system for circumstances beyond the owner’s control.
CDC’s Recommendations for When Someone Gets Sick
If a resident at your site has COVID-19 (suspected or confirmed), the CDC recommends the following:
- Have the resident contact a healthcare provider to determine whether medical evaluation is needed.
- Do not require residents to notify management if they think they may have or have a confirmed case of COVID-19.
- If you do receive information that someone at your site has COVID-19, work with the local health department to notify anyone at the site who may have been exposed (that is, had close contact with the sick person) while maintaining the confidentiality of the sick person as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and, if applicable, the Fair Housing Act and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
- Provide the sick person with information on how to care for themselves and when to seek medical attention.
- Help address misunderstandings about why people are being asked for personal information, and why this information is important for stopping the spread of COVID-19 among family, friends, and communities.
- Encourage residents with COVID-19 symptoms to self-isolate and their roommates and close contacts to quarantine. This includes limiting contact of residents with COVID-19 symptoms with any pets or service animals in the household or facility to protect them from possible infection.
- Those with COVID-19 symptoms and their close contacts should limit their use of shared spaces as much as possible.
- Follow guidance on when to stop isolation and when to end quarantine.
- Minimize the number of staff members who have face-to-face interactions with residents who have suspected or confirmed COVID-19.
- Encourage staff, other residents, caregivers such as outreach workers, and others who visit people with COVID-19 symptoms to follow recommended precautions to prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.
- Staff at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 should not have close contact with residents who have suspected or confirmed COVID-19, if possible.
- Those who have been in close contact (less than 6 feet or 2 meters) with a resident for a total of 15 minutes or more who has confirmed or suspected COVID-19 should monitor their health and call their healthcare provider if they develop symptoms suggestive of COVID-19.
- Be prepared to provide accessible transportation to people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 for testing or non-urgent medical care.
- Avoid transporting people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 using public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis unless it’s the only accessible option. Follow guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting any transport vehicles.
- If multiple cases are suspected, contact the local public health department to report the cases and to offer to an accessible community testing site, provide a platform for information-sharing, or share community insights.