Find Out About Housing Inspection Standards

Aside from submitting an application for Section 8, there are several phases that building owners must complete to provide Section 8 housing to a community. One of the main steps building owners must go through is passing a thorough housing inspection. The Section 8 inspection is a way to ensure that all prospective tenants receive adequate housing quarters to meet their safety and health needs. Public housing agency (PHA) representatives review several aspects of a building, including sanitary facilities and interior air quality, to decide if they meet standards. 

There are 13 key factors that PHA representatives evaluate during their Section 8 inspection process, and applicants must meet minimum standards in each category to qualify. While there are guidelines, inspectors must use their own discretion in assessing the housing quality of the building they are visiting. For more information on the Section 8 housing inspection process, review the sections below.

General Requirements for Section 8 Housing 

The Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Department sets housing quality standards for all Section 8 housing units under the Housing Choice Voucher Program. On a broad note, the units must be safe, sanitary and fully functional to accommodate low-income families. More specifically, there are 13 Section 8 inspection requirements or categories that housing units will be judged on:

  • Sanitation
  • Temperature control
  • Air quality
  • Space and security
  • Smoke detectors
  • Access
  • Structure and materials
  • Food preparation and refuse disposal
  • Illumination and electricity
  • Water supply
  • Site and neighborhood
  • Materials and structure
  • Lead-based paint

While this Section 8 inspection checklist is the main determinant of approval, inspectors also consider the beneficiaries’ preference when making a final decision. 

Safety 

To give a passing grade during a Section 8 inspection for a housing unit, inspectors must ensure that the building is safe for all families. Since the implementation of the lead-based poisoning prevention laws, all property owners must disclose any lead-based paint hazards. Inspectors will also check for signs of paint that is deteriorating, such as chipping, peeling or flaking paint. Areas where children under six years of age frequently visit, such as playgrounds and hallways, will also require an assessment. 

Smoke detectors are another safety feature that PHA housing inspectors will evaluate during their visit. Defective detectors put families in danger during emergency situations and compromise the unit’s safety. If a room presents a potential hazard, it is up to the Section 8 housing inspector’s best judgment to determine if it meets standards.

In many cases, this will depend on the prospective family’s composition. Some hazards are only present for families with small children while others can affect all members of the family. As such, the inspector must determine what considerations are appropriate for the unit in question.

Space 

Section 8 housing units must have proper accommodations for the families they house. This entails having at least four components: 

  • A living room.
  • A bathroom.
  • A kitchen.
  • One bedroom for every two people living in the home.

Families should also feel safe in their PHA housing, which requires that all windows and doors have locks that work properly. Additionally, the thermal conditions in the home must be suitable for the local climate. This means that a housing unit located in an area that has harsh, cold winters must have adequate heating systems. In addition, the heating and cooling systems must extend to all rooms. 

Performance

Another important aspect of Section 8 inspections involves ensuring that the house has adequate illumination and electricity. In addition to having at least one window in every bedroom and living room to allow for natural light, there must also be working artificial light fixtures. This goes hand in hand with electricity in the unit. Property owners must provide enough electrical sources in the housing unit to accommodate the needs of prospective families. More specifically, each bedroom must have two electrical outlets, at the very least, with limited exceptions. Inspectors will also look for any hazards that may endanger residents. This includes missing cover plates, cracked outlets and fuse box connections that are exposed. 

Security

During a Section 8 tenant inspection, PHA representatives will not only evaluate the housing unit but also the condition of the surrounding neighborhood. One of the Section 8 inspection requirements for landlords is that the unit and surrounding neighborhoods be free from loud noises that may disturb tenants. Poor drainage systems and air pollution beyond regular standards are all factors that will disqualify a property owner from becoming eligible for Section 8 housing. 

However, it is important to note that inspectors cannot use their personal biases regarding the quality of the neighborhood as an appropriate reason to fail the Section 8 inspection site. The HUD recommends that inspectors consider if other private residents who do not receive public housing assistance live in the neighborhood. If prospective tenants have preferences regarding the neighborhood’s proximity to commercial businesses and public transportation, for example, inspectors must take that into account. 

Cleanliness

Section 8 housing units should provide the same level of sanitary conditions as private housing complexes. Property owners must have housing units that are sanity and free of any infestation or vermin. While people may have their own definition for what constitutes an infestation, the HUD defines it as having more than one rodent or insect in a space. If the inspector notices visible signs of gnawing and rodent droppings, that is a clear indication that the place likely has an infestation. 

It is also important that inspectors use their best judgement and take the tenant’s preference into consideration. While the inspector may find that one or two roaches is not grave enough to fail the unit, the tenant may determine that the site is an unsuitable living space. During the Section 8 housing inspection, PHAs will also look for systems in place to prevent infestations. Having an accumulation of trash and other debris will likely attract vermin and other rodents. As such, the housing unit must display barriers to maintain its sanitary condition.