Section 8 inspections are a part of being a Section 8 landlord. If you are considering participating in the Section 8 housing assistance program, it's important to fully understand the Section 8 inspection process, including the specific rules and requirements, before determining whether the program is right for you.
Why become a Section 8 landlord?
The Section 8 program, also known as the housing choice voucher program, is a federally funded program that focuses on providing affordable housing in the private market by paying a subsidy to landlords for a portion of the qualified tenant's rent. Landlords often elect to participate in this program because of the consistent "guaranteed" income paid directly from the local housing authority, although there are also other benefits like increased tenant pool and lower vacancy rates.
Are Section 8 inspections required?
Landlords who want to participate in the program must first register their property with the local public housing authority (PHA), undergoing an initial inspection to determine whether they qualify. If approved, the property will be inspected once each year to ensure that it is being maintained to the program's housing quality standards (HQS) and if a tenant complains about a safety or health violation. These inspections are not optional and are a required part of the Section 8 program.
Who conducts Section 8 inspections?
Typically the local PHA will conduct inspections, giving the landlord and tenants prior notice of the inspection date and time.
Section 8 Inspection Checklist
The inspector's job is to make sure the property meets basic quality standards for housing that provide tenants with a healthy, safe home. The inspector will complete a checklist similar to the following, stating whether each item passed, failed, or was inconclusive.
- Window panes must be present, weathertight when closed, and absent any signs of deterioration such as cracking.
- All windows must have screens.
- All ground floor windows must have locks.
- Bedrooms, dining rooms, and living rooms must each have two electrical outlets with cover plates, or one outlet plus a permanently installed ceiling or wall light fixture.
- Bathrooms and kitchen must each have at least one electrical outlet with a cover plate and one functioning light fixture.
- Must have up-to-date wiring and panels free of electrical hazards.
- Must be lockable and adhere to local fire safety codes (consult your local fire inspector or zoning department for your jurisdiction's safety and fire codes).
Elevators and stairs:
- All elevators, stairs, and railings must be secure and in safe working order.
Ceiling and walls:
- Must be free of peeling paint, large cracks, holes, or signs of potential hazardous damage.
- If the property was built prior to January 1, 1978, lead-based paint must be checked.
- Must be free of large cracks, holes, missing pieces, excessive wearing or soiling, or potentially hazardous defects that could cause harm.
- Must have at least one working smoke detector on each level of the unit, including the basement.
Air quality and ventilation:
- Must have adequate ventilation and means to cool during summer months by either opening windows or running a cooling system.
- Must have healthy interior air quality free of mold or hazardous breathable elements like asbestos.
- Must have a functioning, adequate heating unit for the property.
- Must have functioning hot water heaters with pressure release valves and adequate pressure discharge line.
General cleanliness and safety:
- Must be free of pest infestation.
- Must have an acceptable fire exit.
- Must be free of heavy debris or garbage accumulation inside or outside of the property.
- If gas is present, must have functioning carbon monoxide detectors.
- Must have a sink (wash basin), flushing toilet, and shower/bathtub free of leaks or caulking issues with both hot and cold running water from the sink and tub/shower.
- Must have some form of ventilation, such as an openable window or exhaust fan.
- Must have a working stove, oven, or microwave that can be used for the preparation of meals.
- Must have a refrigerator that works and holds temperature.
- The kitchen sink must be free of leaks with both hot and cold running water.
- Must have some space for safe food storage and preparation.
What happens if I fail a Section 8 inspection?
If you fail even one item on the inspection, you fail the inspection. The inspector will provide you with a specific period of time to remedy the issue, then reinspect the property. Failure to correct the failed items can result in a loss of rental subsidy from the local PHA.
The Section 8 rental assistance program is less concerned with the home looking "pretty" than they are with safety. It's a good rule of thumb as a landlord to stay on top of routine maintenance while allocating a portion of the rental income to upgrades and repairs. Keeping the property updated increases the likelihood of finding higher-quality tenants and increases the value of your property over time.
Section 8 inspections are a part of the program and don't have to be a cause for worry. If you own a home that's generally in good condition with safe and healthy standards for living, you shouldn't have a big problem with Section 8 inspections.
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