HUD Urges PHAs and Owners to Install CO Detectors
HUD recently issued joint notice PIH 2019-06, H 2019-05, OLHCHH 2019-01, regarding the installation of carbon monoxide (CO) detectors in HUD-assisted housing. Carbon monoxide is a byproduct of fuel-fired combustion appliances such as furnaces and water heaters. If not properly vented, this undetectable gas can be dangerous and even deadly.
HUD has come under increased pressure to act following recent reports of CO poisoning among residents of HUD housing, which has led to at least 11 deaths since 2003. Housing advocates and public health experts have suggested that in spite of the clear dangers of CO poisoning, HUD has been slow to provide protections for these families.
For decades, HUD’s Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes (OLHCHH) has warned about the dangers of CO as a poisonous gas that can be fatal at high levels of exposure. But HUD has yet to require the use of CO monitors in all of its housing programs. Federally assisted housing residents are therefore at risk of CO poisoning and subsequent death due to inspection practices that aren’t in line with prevailing science and the best practices described by OLHCHH and other federal agencies.
HUD’s notice covers Public Housing, Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance, Section 202 (Supportive Housing for the Elderly), and Section 811 (Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities) programs. Currently, CO detectors are already required in HUD’s voucher-based programs. And as recently as October 2017, HUD issued regulations implementing the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act of 2016 (HOTMA) provision that requires HUD to classify inoperable or missing CO detectors as “life-threatening” violations of the Housing Quality Standards (HQS) for the Housing Choice Voucher and Project-Based Voucher programs.
HUD’s notice reminds HUD-subsidized housing providers of their legal obligation to install working CO detectors in those jurisdictions where these devices are required. In those states and local communities where CO detectors aren’t required, HUD is strongly encouraging housing authorities and owners to install them. The notice concludes that HUD expects to issue additional guidance and will eventually introduce a proposed rule requiring CO detectors for all HUD-subsidized housing programs nationwide.
“A simple, inexpensive, widely available device can be the difference between life and death,” said HUD Secretary Ben Carson. “Given the unevenness of state and local law, we intend to make certain that CO detectors are required in all our housing programs, just as we require smoke detectors, no matter where our HUD-assisted families live.”
Last month, HUD’s Real Estate Assessment Center (REAC) issued Notice 2019-01 to all HUD and HUD-contracted inspectors requiring them to collect data to determine the prevalence of CO detection systems in HUD-assisted properties subject to its Uniform Physical Condition Standards. However, the information collected won’t affect a property’s REAC physical inspection score. The requirement became effective on April 1, 2019.