Housing Quality Standards (HQS) Inspections
Before the Arlington County Housing Choice Voucher (ACHCV) Program enters into a housing assistance payments (HAP) contract and issues rental assistance payments for an ACHCV holder, the housing unit pass inspection. (The housing unit must pass an inspection annually for continued rental assistance payments.)
What does an HQS inspector look for?
Does the HQS inspector inspect for lead paint?
Peeling or flaking paint are common issues for failed inspections. Per state law, HQS inspectors cannot perform a lead-paint test. However, they will make a visual assessment for peeling, cracking or chipped paint, and will assume that lead-based paint was used in buildings constructed prior to 1978. If a pregnant woman or child under 6 years old will be living in a housing unit constructed prior to 1978, the ACHCV Program will require that interior and exterior painted surfaces be stabilized and show no deterioration. Lead-safe practices must be followed when stabilizing painted surfaces, including minor chips, cracks or peeling paint. After stabilization, dust-wipe samples will be tested for lead-dust concentration that exceeds the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines.
If only a few items failed, does that mean the unit passed?
No. A single deficiency will result in a failed HQS inspection.
If a rental unit is up to code, will it pass inspection?
An HQS inspection is not a “code” inspection and does not address general state and local building codes, housing ordinances, etc. HQS inspector follow the national HQS protocol found on HUD’s checklist on Form 52580 (PDF) but will enforce the more stringent state/local code requirements, such as state fire codes regarding smoke detectors and second means of egress.
Is the entire apartment building inspected?
No. HQS inspectors look only at units that will be part of the ACHCV Program. However, the inspection will include common areas, basements and exterior areas that will be used by tenant receiving rental assistance through the program.
The neighboring unit has some problems. Will the HQS inspector report those, too?
No. While problems in neighboring units may be important, HQS inspectors focus on the subsidized unit’s condition.
This unit is brand new or was previously approved for Section 8, does it still require inspection?
Yes. The ACHCV Program requires move-in and annual inspections of all housing units within the program.
What happens after my HQS inspection?
Program staff will review the HQS inspection report. The landlord will receive a notice of any deficiencies resulting in a failed inspection, along with a timeframe allotted for repairs.
Is there a “grandfather” provision for older buildings?
No. The HQS does not provide for “grandfathering” of older units. All units will be evaluated against the same standards.
What if the tenant damages the property?
If apartment damage occurs, it should be handled according to the binding lease agreement between the tenant and landlord. A housing unit will fail inspection for a broken window, regardless of who broke it. The tenant and landlord should work together to repair the window within the allotted timeframe.
What is the timeframe for repairs?
Standard deficiencies must be repaired within 30 days. Life-threatening items, such as malfunctioning smoke detectors, typically require repairs within 24 hours.
The failed items have been repaired. What happens now?
HQS inspectors will conduct a physical re-check or re-inspection limited to the unit’s failed inspection items. Although a complete unit inspection will not be conducted, if an inspector sees new deficiencies, repairs may be requested.
Common Issues Related to a Failed HQS Inspection
- Peeling or flaking paint
- Unsafe or rotted porches
- Water leaks
- Weak or broken floorboards
- Faulty plumbing
- Missing electrical outlet covers or switch plates
- Inoperable smoke detectors or no smoke detectors
- Unclean or not ready for new habitation
- Nonworking utilities
Tenant HQS Responsibilities
- Arlington County Housing Choice Voucher (ACHCV) Program participants must keep their rental unit clean and free of all dirt and debris (poor housekeeping may be considered a lease violation).
- For safety reasons, keep heaters/water heaters free from trash, flammable articles/liquids or any other items.
- Notify the landlord if an item needs repair.
If the landlord doesn’t repair the item within a reasonable time, the tenant may contact the ACHCV Program and request a Housing Quality Standards (HQS) inspection.
- Upon finding the deficient item, the HQS inspector will contact the landlord in writing. (The HQS inspector will contact the landlord by phone if the item poses an immediate threat to health and safety.)
- If the deficient item remains unrepaired within the allotted time frame, the HQS inspector will recommend that housing assistance payments stop (abatement) until the repair has been made.
- If the landlord makes the repairs, the HQS inspector will verify the repair, and the housing assistance payments will restart. (During the repair period, the tenant must continue paying rent under the lease agreement terms.)
- If the landlord still doesn’t make the repair, the ACHCV Program will issue the tenant a new voucher to look for other housing and will terminate the current contract after notifying the tenant and landlord.
- For housing assistance to continue, the tenant must find other suitable housing within the allotted time frame. If the tenant can’t find housing and the current unit still doesn’t pass inspection, the tenant’s housing assistance will be terminated.
- If the ACHCV Program determines the tenant caused the item deficiency, the tenant must make the repair within an allotted time frame, and the landlord’s rent won’t be abated. Failure to do so will result in the ACHCV Program terminating the tenant’s housing assistance, after providing an opportunity for an informal hearing.
- The ACHCV Program considers certain item deficiencies to be the tenant’s responsibility:
- Nonworking, tenant-paid utilities
- Failure to provide or maintain family-supplied appliances
- Damages beyond ordinary wear and tear* caused by a household member or guest
- Unit damages beyond ordinary wear and tear are considered a lease violation and must be repaired.
- If the tenant causes the damage, the tenant must make the repair.
- If the landlord repairs tenant-related damage, the landlord may bill the tenant.
- If a tenant moves out prior to damage repair, the tenant’s ACHCV Program assistance may be terminated for lease violations.
*Ordinary wear and tear refers to items that can be charged against the tenant’s security deposit under state law or court practice.