Don’t Be Afraid of Section 8 Inspections
Section 8, or the Housing Choice Voucher Program, offers landlords a great opportunity for “guaranteed” rent. Many landlords though, avoid it due to misconceptions about having to deal with annual Section 8 inspections. Let’s separate some facts from myths!
Why are Annual Section 8 Inspections Done?
So, yes Section 8 (will use the abbreviation S8 going forward) typically requires an annual inspection to make sure a home still meets their requirements – basically, they want to make sure the landlord isn’t ignoring any maintenance issues. It’s also not uncommon for an S8 inspection to uncover maintenance issues not reported, sometimes not even noticed, by the tenant. So, landlords committed to taking care of their properties shouldn’t be intimidated by an S8 inspection.
What Maintenance Issues are Section 8 Inspectors Looking For?
Every Section 8 inspection has to use the HUD (Department of Housing Urban Development) checklist form HUD-52580. For the most part, it’s about health & safety issues – handrails, lead paint issues, functional GFCI’s near water sources, water leaks, electrical issues, etc.
It also covers obvious cosmetic repairs like holes in walls, broken doors, missing light covers, frayed carpeting and the like.
Landlords should address most of these issues anyways to keep tenants happy, avoid slip & fall lawsuits and to protect their properties from deterioration and waste.
How are Tenant Damages Handled?
Many S8 inspections will identify maintenance issues that were caused by a tenant, that a landlord really shouldn’t be responsible for (and often the tenant doesn’t report).
Some S8 offices will send a landlord a letter summarizing the needed repairs and break them down into groups of; Emergency Repairs, Tenant Repairs and Landlord Repairs. The tenant will be held responsible to address the repairs assigned to them or face the possibility of losing their S8 Housing Voucher.
Regardless, the repairs must be done or the S8 rent payments will be suspended and may ultimately be cancelled. A landlord always has the option of trying to collect repair costs from the tenant per the terms of their lease with the tenant. Just be sure they aren’t the repairs assigned to the landlord.
Timeline for Repairs
S8 inspections have standard deadlines for landlords to make required repairs. Emergency repairs, those that are serious safety issues, must typically be done in 24-72 hours. The rest of the repairs are usually required to be completed AND re-inspected within 4 weeks.
If the 2nd inspection fails, most S8 offices will abate (suspend) rent payments and give a landlord an additional 4 weeks to get the repairs done and pass a re-inspection. Abated rent will not be reimbursed to a landlord and cannot be collected from the tenant – it’s gone forever.
If the 3rd inspection fails, a landlord may be able to get a chance at a 4th inspection if they prove extenuating circumstances – like a tenant not cooperating with access to the home to make the repairs. Otherwise, the S8 office will usually issue a letter to the tenant warning them they have to move from the home, as it doesn’t meet S8 requirements, or lose their S8 Housing Voucher.
How Landlords Get in Trouble with S8 Inspections
As property managers, we deal with S8 inspections all the time. We’ve taken over the management of properties with S8 inspection issues and had to quickly solve them. We also have to calm down property owners who overreact to S8 inspection repairs and want us to violate S8 guidelines.
From all that experience, the biggest issue we see with S8 inspections is landlords not wanting to do any repairs or trying to put band aides on repair issues. These landlords should avoid the S8 program or improve their outlook on making repairs.
The most common issue we see is landlords not understanding their responsibilities under the program and what their options are. Landlords should thoroughly read and reference the Housing Assistance Payments Contract form HUD-52641 (also known as the HAP Contract). Landlords are constantly complaining that tenants don’t read, understand and follow the leases they sign, yet many landlords don’t take the time to really read and understand this document!
In summary, while the S8 inspection process isn’t perfect, landlords that keep their properties in good condition should have little to fear. When an unusual problem arises, instead of panicking and stressing, be attentive and ask the managing S8 office for assistance.