Complaints About REAC Inspectors

Knowing When to File A Complaint About A REAC Inspector

At nearly everyone one of our training sessions, speaking engagements, or just day to day requests for advice: the most common question we have been receiving over the last several years revolves around "unprofessional REAC Inspector". Something like "We had this one inspector who was just awful and he/she did...."

The question is: when should this result in a formal complaint about the REAC Inspector? Here are the most common forms of the questions:

They wrote up stuff that the last inspectors never did. In one form or another, this is the most common complaint we hear. This inspector got down on her/his hands and knees; checked vents, turned on broilers, showers, checked every window, turned on every light fixture, etc; this is how inspections are supposed to be done. The response to this typically results in a realization that the real issue is with the previous REAC inspectors who performed substandard inspections and setup false sense of standards. If this scenario has occurred to you, you should seek out training on REAC Inspection requirements and schedule a Pre-REAC Inspection with a qualified consultant before your next REAC Inspection.

The REAC Inspector made strange and unusual requests: Some REAC Inspectors may just rub people the wrong way; they can be peculiar, a little odd, etc. There are no rules against being a little "unique". During a recent training, a client wanted to file an appeal based on the REAC Inspector insisting on performing the inspection "his way" - doing the outside first, and then the basement, etc. Afterwards, the owner felt they had been "too accommodating" to the inspector's peccadilloes. Another company didn't like that the inspector chewed bubble gum through the entire inspection. These sort of interchanges, behavioral differences are typically referred to as the foibles of human nature, and you should just let it go - while annoying, it has nothing to do with the end result of your inspection.

The Inspector was rude, unprofessional, or threatening: Once any of these words are used, the complaints are quite serious. There are experiences for owner/managers throughout the country who have been subjected to an inspector who is rude, unprofessional, aggressive, and/or unprofessional. We have been told stories about inspectors who bring property managers to tears during and after the inspection. One manager described the experience as "terrifying" and the thought of having the same inspector return was equally frightening. To use this inspector as an example, the inspector repeatedly told the manager and maintenance tech to "shut up" and told tenants to "just go sit down". There were discussions with residents about whether or not "they deserved tax money". Then the inspector was unaware of basic rules, recorded items incorrectly, and was rude, aggressive, and entirely unprofessional.

In this example, what should the management company/owner do?

Understanding the Differences Between a Complaints and Appeals

First, remember that the appeal process is not the venue to resolve this. When you file an appeal, the documentation is solely focused on reversing deficiencies that were cited incorrectly. To put it another way, the fact that the inspector was unprofessional doesn't explain why the door was cited as inoperable.

Can you file a complaint? Yes. There are defined procedures in place to ensure that your complaint will be heard and responded to, and more importantly - that you will be protected from any reprisals or retribution from the inspector for filing the complaint. This complaint should not be filed with your Contract Administrator or Project Manager, there is a specific office at REAC Washington who handles these requests. If you would like more information about this process, please contact us and we will advise you through the process at no cost to you.

If you have any questions about these new requirements, or if you have questions about REAC Inspections, training on REAC Inspections, or US Housing Consultant's Pre-REAC Inspections services - please feel free to contact us at any time.

Rental Applications and Interviews

In multifamily affordable housing, finding a qualified resident who will live in an apartment for years to come, pay the rent on time, and keep the unit clean is possibly the most important part of a property manager's job. The first step in this process is the application for housing. The application is the first step towards proper compliance with HUD, LIHTC, or other regulations, as well as ensuring that you find out proper background information.

Is the application complete? Would you ever apply for a job and leave out prior experience, education, special skills or even contact information? When you were back in school did you ever leave half the questions on an exam blank and expect an A+? My guess is you would not – so I am continually surprised to see partially completed rental applications, with many blanks or N/A covering half of the form. The application form is the basis for all compliance with affordable housing programs; it tells you what needs to be verified, clarified, and researched, and blanks on the form are not interpreted as an applicant oversight but as potential fraud.

Is Your Application Detailed Enough?Take a critical look at your rental application form– is it detailed enough to provide sufficient information to establish all aspects of eligibility including, but not limited to, household composition, income, assets, and student status? Does it fully capture employment information for all members of the household – including minors? Do you ask about prior employment and second jobs? How about detailed questions regarding assets, access, and income earned from assets – for all household members? Make sure your application fully meets the requirements of the monitoring agency for your housing program. Review your state compliance manuals or funding handbooks for detailed application requirements. Your rental application is your first introduction to a potential applicant – are you learning enough about your applicant?

Do You Have An Established Interview Process? The next part of a solid application process is the Applicant Interview. During an effective interview, you have the opportunity to not only confirm the information provided in the application, but also to request missing information, clarify any discrepancies and potentially identify any red flags.

What are Interviews "Do's" and "Don'ts"?

  • DO make sure your applicant understands your housing program and why you're required to gather so much information about them. Explain program requirements, verification procedures and penalties for false information. Make it clear this information is required of all applicants, and their privacy is protected
  • DON'T use program language – instead of asking "have you disposed of assets for less than FMV [Fair Market Value]", instead try "have you given away anything worth more than $1,000 in the past two years?" Give examples – have you paid for a vacation for your granddaughter, bought a car for someone, given money to charity, etc?
  • DON'T lead answers – Never ask leading questions such as "You're not in school are you? You don't have more than $5,000 in assets, right? Or one of my favorites – "Your last paystub shows you have only 1 hour of overtime, do you normally work 1 hour of overtime per pay period?"
  • DO use your interview checklist as a guide for a conversation and ask follow-up questions - Are you currently attending school? When was the last time you attended school? Did you graduate? Do you intend to enroll again in the next 12 months? How are you paying for school? Is it with loans or do you have another source of assistance for the tuition payments?
  • DON'T accuse – inevitably you'll run into discrepancies, it's important to ask open-ended questions when clarifying conflicting information – "You've noted on your application that you've never owned real estate – I see your credit report shows an open mortgage, can you tell me about that?
  • DO probe further if you think there is unreported income or assets. Some potential red flags include: current monthly obligations on credit report are more than reported income, prior monthly rent is higher than reported monthly income, SS or SSI recipient with no assets claimed, recurring deposits in bank accounts that are higher than income claimed, etc. Please check back next month for our next installment which will cover signs of what to look for when determining if an applicant is trying to hide income or assets.

It's very tempting to breeze through the application/interview process – but a few extra minutes early in the process will save you time and help you avoid costly errors down the road. The bonus? You just might get to know your new resident a little better… 

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