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If you’re trying to rent a unit with Section 8 vouchers, you need to be mindful of the Section 8 inspection requirements. This is the criteria that the PHA agent will use to determine whether or not your chosen unit can be covered by the Section 8 program.
Section 8 Inspection Requirements: Safe, Sanitary and Decent
The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires that all properties paid for with Section 8 be safe, sanitary and decent. The inspection is designed to enforce those rules.
“Safe,” “sanitary,” and “decent” are fairly vague terms. Fortunately, we were able to find the exact checklist that PHA inspectors use when conducting these evaluations.
There are 13 categories that must be passed.
There are 13 key components to the inspection. All of them must be passed with a satisfactory score or the unit will fail the entire inspection.
These 13 categories include:
- Sanitary facilities
- Food preparation and refuse disposal
- Space and security
- Thermal environment
- Illumination and electricity
- Structure and materials
- Interior air quality
- Water supply
- Lead-based paint
- Site and neighborhood
- Sanitary conditions
- Smoke detectors
There are specific Section 8 inspection criteria.
I was able to retrieve a copy of the inspection checklist from the HUD website. It estimated that the inspection should take approximately an hour to complete.
As of the time of this writing, the checklist is eight pages long and divided by room.
Living Room Requirements
In the living room, the inspector will evaluate the following:
- Is the living room present (does it exist)?
- Electrical Hazards
- Window condition (there must be at least one in the living room and each bedroom)
- Ceiling condition (no serious defects, bulging, large holes, loose surface materials, severe buckling, missing parts or severe damage)
- Wall condition
- Floor condition
- Lead-based paint
- Smoke detectors
The law states that “the dwelling unit must have suitable space and equipment to store, prepare, and serve food in a sanitary manner.”
In the kitchen, the inspector will evaluate all of the same things that they looked at in the living room. They will also look for the following.
- The unit must have an oven, and a stove or range. If the tenant is expected to provide appliances, then a microwave oven can be substituted instead.
- The refrigerator must be an appropriate size for the family.
- All appliances must work properly. Appliances can be supplied by either the landlord or the tenant.
- The kitchen must have a working sink, with a sink trap and hot/cold running water. The sink must drain into an approved public or private system.
- The unit must have space for the storage, preparation and serving of food.
- There must be facilities and services for the sanitary disposal of food waste and refuse, such as garbage cans.
- The kitchen must have a permanent ceiling or wall light fixture that works.
- The kitchen must have at least one electrical outlet that works.
The Section 8 inspection law states that “the dwelling unit must include sanitary facilities located in the unit. The sanitary facilities must be in proper operating condition, and adequate for personal cleanliness and the disposal of human waste. The sanitary facilities must be usable in privacy.”
In order to be acceptable, your unit must include the following:
- The bathroom must be in a separate private room and have a flush toilet in proper operating condition.
- The unit must have a fixed basin sink in proper operating condition, with a sink trap and working hot/cold running water.
- The unit must have a shower or a bathtub that works. It must have both hot and cold running water.
- The facilities must utilize an approved public or private disposal system, such as a septic system.
- The bathroom must have proper ventilation.
- The bathroom must have a permanent ceiling or wall light fixture that works.
Additional Rooms and Hallways
All other secondary rooms, hallways and living spaces will be evaluated with the same criteria that was used in the living room.
- Each bedroom must have at least one working window.
- Each bedroom must have at least two working electrical outlets. A permanent light fixture may count as one of the required outlets.
Overall Unit Requirements
At a minimum, the unit must have a bedroom, living room, kitchen area and bathroom in order to be approved for Section 8. There must be at least one bedroom per two people in the family. Children of the opposite sex cannot be required to occupy the same bedroom.
All windows that are accessible from the outside must be lockable, according to the Section 8 inspection requirements. Windows cannot be nailed shut or permanently closed unless they are not needed for ventilation or as a fire exit.
All exterior doors must be lockable. Exterior doors are those that allow someone to enter or exit the home.
The outside of the building will also be evaluated. The inspector will evaluate:
- Condition of the foundation
- Condition of the stairs, rails and porches (must not pose danger of tripping or falling)
- Condition of the roof and gutters (roof must be structurally sound and weathertight)
- Condition of exterior surfaces (no large holes or serious defects)
- Condition of chimney
- Lead paint?
- Manufactured home tie downs
Heating and Plumbing
The law states that the home must be capable of maintaining a safe temperature that is healthy for the human body. It must have a safe and reliable system of heating the home. A cooling system, if present, must also be operational.
Electric heaters are acceptable but Section 8 will not approve a home that has unvented gas, oil or kerosene heaters.
The heating and plumbing systems will also be evaluated as part of the Section 8 inspection.
- Adequacy of heating equipment
- Safety of heating equipment
- Ventilation and Cooling
- Water Heater
- Approvable water supply
- Sewer connection
Other General Health and Safety Requirements
Of course, there are additional health and safety requirements in these inspections.
- Access to unit
- Fire exits
- Evidence of infestations
- Garbage or debris
- Refuse disposal
- Interior stairs and common hallways
- Other interior hazards
- Interior air quality and circulation
- Site and neighborhood conditions
The inspection sheet also has a page where the tenant can indicate any positive features of the unit. They aren’t required, but can be taken into consideration when the PHA makes a decision. These special features could include high quality interior features, exceptional size, large mirrors, garbage disposals, a large yard, or other positive qualities. There is a checklist on page 6 with other options.