HUD posted a notice in the Federal Register on June 17 seeking public comment on proposed NSPIRE health and safety physical inspection standards that would accompany a final NSPIRE rule. HUD issued a proposed rule on January 13, 2021, to implement the National Standards for Physical Inspection of Real Estate (NSPIRE) (see Memo 1/19/21). HUD is also proposing changes to the list of life-threatening conditions and intends to include them in NSPIRE inspection standards rather than in regulations, as previously proposed in a January 18, 2017, Federal Register notice. Comments are due by August 1.
NSPIRE is HUD’s planned new physical inspection model that will emphasize the condition of HUD-assisted homes, prioritizing health and safety conditions. NSPIRE will align the physical condition inspection standards across the various HUD housing programs. For many years (and to this day), HUD has had two inspection models:
- Housing Quality Standards (HQS) that apply to the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) and Project-Based Voucher (PBV) programs.
- Uniform Physical Conditions Standards (UPCS) that apply to public housing, Project-Based Section 8 properties, Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly, Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities, and other programs.
HUD announced an NSPIRE demonstration program in a Federal Register notice on August 21, 2019 (see Memo, 8/26/19), followed by the proposed rule on January 13, 2021.
Proposed Changes to Some Health and Safety Standards
HUD is seeking comments regarding proposed changes to the following eight current NSPIRE standards related to health and safety. (In each case, the current NSPIRE standard is linked.)
Smoke Alarms. Consistent with the proposed rule, HUD intends to prescribe locations where smoke alarms must be installed, requiring them on each level of a unit and inside each sleeping area.
Carbon Monoxide Alarms. To incorporate requirements enacted by Congress in the fiscal year (FY) 2021 appropriations act, HUD intends to establish deficiency criteria for the installation of carbon monoxide alarms. HUD defines a deficiency as a defect or condition cited in a HUD physical inspection in which there is an inspectable item that is observed to be missing, flawed, or not functioning as designed. Deficiencies differ by classification and severity, and deficiency definitions specify what must be recorded for a given deficiency.
Fire Labeled Doors. HUD proposes deficiency criteria for these types of doors where they exist. Deficiencies would be determined on the basis of function and operability criteria.
Guardrails. HUD proposes deficiency criteria for cases in which guardrails are missing to protect against fall hazards along balconies, stairs, ramps, deck, rooftops, hallways, and other walking surfaces.
Handrails. HUD proposes a deficiency standard for handrails that are not functionally adequate and cannot be reasonably grasped by hand to provide stability or support on stairways.
Mold-like Substance. HUD proposes a ventilation or dehumidification requirement for bathrooms and deficiencies based on discrete levels of observed conditions.
Potential Lead-based Paint Hazards. HUD would include a deficiency that incorporates the HQS requirements for an enhanced visual assessment for deteriorated paint when there is a child under the age of six living in a unit.
Structural System. HUD intends to add a deficiency that identifies signs of serious structural collapse.
Additional Questions Posed by HUD
HUD is considering 13 additional changes that have not been proposed in draft form and seeks public comment about them.
“Question #1” explains that HUD is considering amending the Mold-Like Substance Standard to include deficiency criteria that would require use of moisture meters and establish moisture-levels thresholds. The amended deficiency would also recommend, but not require, the use of infrared cameras to detect moisture intrusion.
Two questions concern the Infestation Standard. “Question #12” explains that the current deficiency standard for extensive cockroach infestation has a specific threshold for visual observation. HUD is considering adding specific criteria with thresholds for other pests and asks for input regarding what other types of pests should be considered and whether the cockroach threshold would be adequate for such other pests. “Question #13” asks whether a longer timeframe to correct severe infestation deficiencies would be acceptable in public housing and Project-Based Section 8 housing when properties use industry best practices such as integrated pest management.
For the Electrical-Conductor Standard, “Question #10” seeks input regarding a new deficiency to address leaks on to or near electrical components.
The “Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act of 2016” (HOTMA) requires life-threatening deficiencies in HCV or PBV units to be addressed within 24 hours and all other deficiencies to be addressed within 30 days. In “Question #11,” HUD indicates that it is considering amending the timeframe for standards and deficiencies categorized as “Severe Non-Life Threatening,” which HUD defines as a category of severe health and safety deficiencies that present a high risk of permanent disability, or serious injury or illness. HUD recognizes that some corrective actions may not be technically feasible within 24 hours (it might take time to secure a needed building permit or to engage an appropriate contractor). While HUD would continue to require that the health or safety risk to residents be removed within 24 hours as required by HOTMA, HUD is considering extending the timeframe to make corrections and asks for input regarding which standards and deficiencies would benefit from an extension of time to make corrections.
There are six questions about the Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Standard, most regarding permanently installed heating sources. “Question #7,” for example, asks for suggestions on how to define “permanently installed heating sources.” “Question #8” seeks input about a new deficiency related to the presence of unvented, fuel-burning space heaters because they can be associated with fire and carbon monoxide risks. “Question #4” asks whether HUD should create two levels of severity for a minimum temperature: a deficiency for properties that are not maintained at a minimum unit temperature of 64 degrees Fahrenheit, and a new severe non-life-threatening deficiency for properties with unit temperatures between 64- and 67.9-degrees Fahrenheit.
Read the June 17 Federal Register notice at: https://bit.ly/3blvLSl
Find an easier-to-read version of the notice at: https://bit.ly/3napuvv
The NSPIRE home page is at: https://bit.ly/2V9qvV3
The NSPIRE Standards webpage is at: https://bit.ly/2kuXaXY
The NSPIRE Deficiency Categories webpage is at: https://bit.ly/3tXOj1E
The NSPIRE Health and Safety Risks webpage is at: https://bit.ly/2mh8rMj
The NSPIRE Life-Threatening Deficiencies webpage is at: https://bit.ly/3u0cc8W
The NSPIRE Terms and Definitions webpage is at: https://bit.ly/39UTJUa