Frequently Asked Questions
for Section 8 Landlords
Below are a number of questions often asked of HAPHousing staff. If your questions are not answered, please contact HAPHousing directly and one of our landlord specialists will help you.
What is Section 8?
What standards do HAPHousing housing inspectors use?
Do HAPHousing Inspectors enforce State Sanitary Code?
Why must a unit be inspected?
How often will my unit be inspected?
How do I get ready for a HAPHousing Inspection?
Why does the Inspector need access to the basement?
What if the Inspector finds violations?
What if the repairs aren’t completed by the re-inspection date?
What should I do if I don’t understand the citations?
Can I request an extension for repairs?
Do I need lead-based paint compliance?
The actual name of the program commonly known as “Section 8” is the Housing Choice Voucher Program. It is a federally funded program that subsidizes rents for eligible participants who rent units in the private market. It is designed to assist very low-income families, the elderly and the disabled to rent decent, safe and sanitary housing. A housing subsidy is paid directly to the landlord on behalf of a participating family.
Our housing inspectors inspect according to minimum habitability and program requirements as established by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). These standards are collectively referred to as Housing Quality Standards (HQS).
Housing Quality Standards were developed to insure that all homes leased under Section 8 will be safe, decent and sanitary. It is important to remember that these are minimum standards, and that under Massachusetts Law, all rental properties must meet Massachusetts State Sanitary Code as well. You can download additional information on the Housing Quality Standards here.
No. While certain HQS requirements may mirror Massachusetts State Sanitary Code, HAPHousing Inspectors do not enforce local or state requirements. It is important to note that passing a HQS inspection does not mean that your unit will pass a State Sanitary Code inspection or vise versa.
There are three primary reasons a unit must be inspected. The first is very simple; HUD requires that any unit being considered for or currently in the Section 8 program must meet HQS in order for the owner to receive rental assistance payments. The second is to ensure that there are no health or safety issues that will adversely affect the participant. The third is to assist property owners in identifying issues that poses a risk to their tenants or require routine maintenance that if left unaddressed could results in substantial repair costs or serious injury.
It is important to remember that HAPHousing cannot start a contract until the property is determined to be in compliance with HQS.
HUD requires that a unit be inspected before the contract is executed (called an initial inspection) and no later than 365 days after the last full inspection (called an annual inspection). In addition to those two types of inspections, there are also audit inspections for quality control, supervisor review and complaint inspections.
Audit Inspections can be conducted by HUD, DHCD or HAPHousing. Units are chosen at random and any unit under contract may be chosen. The purpose is to identify areas where HAPHousing Inspectors require additional or refresher trainings.
Complaint Inspections are inspections requested by either the Participant or the Property Owner after all other means of remedy have been tried. Examples of common complaints include:
- The Property Owner has failed to correct a no heat or no hot water issue with 24 hours of notification by the Participant.
- The Participant (or a member of their family or a guest) has failed to repair damages (beyond normal wear and tear) after being notified by the Property Owner.
- Infestation of cockroaches.
- Leaking roofs.
In all cases before a complaint inspection is requested, the Property Owner and the Participant should have been notified of the problem by the other party. The first question you will be asked is whether or not the other party was notified of the issue, how were they notified, and what was the outcome of that notification.
Annual Inspections are scheduled approximately nine months apart to enable HAPHousing to comply with HUD’s “no later than 365 days” regulation. This allows for cancellations or missed appointments. This nine month period is based on the last full inspection, not the last re-inspection.
- Unit is fully inspected on 12/01/08. (annual or Initial Inspection)
- HUD’s “once a year requirement” would be 12/01/09
- HAPHousing will schedule the next annual Inspection on or about 9/01/2009 (approximately three months before HUD’s “once a year requirement").
A word about re-inspections. There will be few violations, if any, if the unit, common areas and overall property are maintained in good condition. In other words, there will be few problems if there is a strong, proactive, preventative approach to maintenance. Also, completing the repairs or corrections by the scheduled re-inspection date will limit the number of re-inspections required to verify that all of the violations have been corrected.
If you are a property owner, you are strongly encouraged to inspect your property prior to any visit from a HAPHousing Inspector. This simple general rule can be used as a guideline -- if it’s broken or worn out, repair it or replace it before the inspection.
If you are a participant, you should have your apartment, any adjacent common areas and storage areas, clean and orderly. If there are any damages caused by you, a member of your family or a guest, you should inform the owner prior to the inspection and make whatever arrangements are necessary for repairs.
For more information on what the inspector will look for, please download this list of most common fail items. You can use this list as a guideline to prepare for the inspection. Please note, however, that this list is not all-inclusive.
HAPHousing Inspectors are required by HUD to inspect basements whether the participating tenant has access or not. The Inspector is looking for health and safety issues that can impact the tenant.
You will be sent a copy of the Inspection Report listing the violations. Accompanying that list will be a notice indicating a re-inspection date. All violations must be repaired by that re-inspection date. The only exception to this process involves violations that are considered life-threatening. These are classified as 24 Hour Emergency Violations and must be corrected within 24 hours. At the time of discovery, the Housing Inspector will contact you by phone if you are not present at the inspection. A follow-up notice will be mailed to you for your records.
To be eligible to receive Section 8 rental assistance, your unit must be in compliance with HQS. If all of the violations are not corrected by the re-inspection date, HAPHousing is required by HUD to suspend your rental subsidy payment and assess a non-recoverable abatement. The principal considerations in determining the amount of the abatement are:
- Number and severity of the violations;
- Diminished value of the unit, taking into account the nature of the violations and their impact on the tenant’s health, safety, comfort, and convenience;
- Length of time violations remain outstanding;
- Owner’s good faith effort in making repairs;
- Whether the non-compliance is tenant caused (no abatement may be imposed on the owner for those violations);
- The owner’s past repair history;
- Impact on the tenant’s housing stability and achievement of the rental assistance program’s key goals of if the contract must be terminated.
If you do not understand the violations cited, call the Inspection Assistant listed at the bottom of the notice as soon as possible. They will be able to direct your call to the appropriate Housing Inspector. It is important that you call before the scheduled re-inspection date.
Yes, both property owners and participating tenants can request an extension for correcting violations they are responsible for repairing or correcting. They cannot, however, request an extension for the other party.
A request for an extension will be evaluated based on several factors including but not limited to:
- Nature of the violation or violations.
- Why an extension is needed.
- Any good faith efforts made to correct the violation(s).
- Mitigating circumstances
- History of HQS compliance
You may be required to provide specific documentation such as signed contracts or purchase orders to support your request for an extension.
The one area where extensions cannot be granted involves potential lead-based paint hazards. Neither Massachusetts Lead-Based Paint Law nor HUD regulations allow any extension, including for weather, to correct potential hazards. The only option a Property Owner has is to prove either by the original lead inspection report (not the Letter of Compliance) or by a new lead inspection that the areas cited do not constitute a lead hazard.
Only if a child younger than six years old is a resident of the unit. If the property was built prior to January 1, 1978, then you must submit a valid letter of Lead-Based Paint Compliance (LOC) issued by a Massachusetts licensed Lead Inspector. If the property was built on or after January 1, 1978 then you must submit a Building Permit documenting that fact. A Certificate of Occupancy does not meet this requirement.