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HUD Publishes New Proposed NSPIRE Rules and Seeks Comments

On June 17, 2022, HUD published an update in the Federal Register 24 CFR Parts 5, 92, 93, 200, 574, 576, 578, 880, 882, 884, 886, 888, 902, 982, 983, and 985 ([Docket Nos. 6086–N–02] – Request for Comments: National Standards for the Physical Inspection of Real Estate and Associated Protocols’ Comments will be accepted through August 1, 2022.

Based on the publication, this request for comments on the NSPIRE demonstration program deals heavily with the attempt to align the voucher program inspection protocol (HQS) and Multifamily and Public Housing inspections (UPCS). At the center of this update is the update to the voucher program known as “HOTMA” in 2016, which created a new category of “Life-Threatening” as part of HQS.

Under the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act of 2016 (HOTMA), life-threatening deficiencies must be addressed within 24 hours, and all other deficiencies within 30 days. Under HOTMA, Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) can allow families participating in the HCV and PBV programs to move into their unit before the unit passes the HQS, but only if there are no life-threatening conditions identified in the initial inspection. As a result of this update, the “HOTMA List” was created, which defined those HQS violations that would result in 24-hour demand for repairs.

Redefining Life-Threatening Deficiencies

The items posted for comment deal almost exclusively with creating a universal definition of “Life-Threatening” as part of NSPIRE. However, other elements are being contemplated now, and HUD seeks comments before adding new standards to the proposed NSPIRE Rules.

This update includes deficiencies fundamentally different from UPCS, as NPSIRE continues to align UPCS with HQS and other standards such as UFAS, ADA, and fire safety.

  1. Smoke Alarms – NSPIRE proposes to align the standards for smoke detectors to meet or exceed the standards in NFPA 72 (Fire Safety Standards), which require smoke alarms in each sleeping area and common hallways on each floor.
  2. Carbon Monoxide Alarms – NSPIRE seeks to align the standards of ICC and IFC (International Code Council and International Fire Code) with the new standards, which would establish deficiency criteria for installing carbon monoxide alarms.
  3. Fire-Labeled Doors – NSPIRE seeks to require fire-rated doors with labels with self-closing devices that are fully functional. This is a departure from UPCS, which only required that existing hardware work if present.
  4. Guardrails – Guardrails have changed several times throughout the NSPIRE Rules. Still, essentially the standard seeks to align International Building Code (IBC) standards for the requirement of railings that are at least 36” high whenever there is a drop off of 30” or more, typically on walkways, stairs, roofs, etc.
  5. Handrails – Handrails under NSPIRE will be aligned with accessibility standards, establishing a standard for the design of the railings, similar to barrier-free design requirements – rounded. They can be reasonably grasped by hand to provide stability or support when ascending or descending stairways.
  6. Mold-Like Substance – The mold-like substance standard is changing from the current language in UPCS, which defined hazardous conditions as water-damaged surfaces greater than 12×12”, and under the NSPIRE Rules, this would include “discrete levels of observed conditions” as well as the conditions which may result in mold, such as poor ventilation in bathrooms. HUD is seeking comments on this standard. The amended Deficiency would outline the required use of moisture meters and moisture levels and establish the threshold for such a Deficiency. The amended Deficiency would also recommend, but not require, the use of infrared cameras to detect moisture intrusion. HUD seeks input on this proposed requirement, the use of appropriate equipment, and what would be an appropriate correction timeframe.

Proposed New NSPIRE Rules

Additionally, HUD has proposed several other standards. The following are paraphrased from the CFR publication and written below as theoretical questions.

  • Should HUD inspections define HVAC equipment as inoperable or damaged if the ambient room temperature is below 64 degrees? HUD is seeking input on the advisability of creating two levels of severity for the minimum temperature deficiency. This would require HUD inspectors to use thermometers on inspections where the exterior temperature is less than 68 degrees.
  • Should HUD inspections examine gas-fired temporary heating sources? HUD is considering amending the HVAC standard to create a new deficiency for the presence of unvented, fuel-burning space heaters due to the associated fire and carbon monoxide risk.
  • Should HUD inspections require specific testing devices for GFCI or AFCI electrical protection near water sources? An acceptable industry tool standard example would be Underwriters Lab Standard 1436 for Outlet Circuit Testers and Similar Indicating Devices.
  • Should HUD amend the timelines for correcting severe non-life-threatening deficiencies when the correction would take an extended period to correct? HUD recognizes that not all severe conditions can be repaired within 24 hours as they may require building permits or an appropriate contractor’s services. HUD seeks specific input on whether this proposed change in correction timeframes should be addressed within the standards or through an administrative process where HUD adjusts within its database to reflect an extended timeframe of repair
  • Should HUD add a deficiency for “severe infestation”? Basically, should there be a distinction between visual verification for infestation? The amended standard would include specific criteria with thresholds comparable to the extensive cockroach infestation deficiency. And, should HUD add additional repair timeframes other than 24 hours for “severe infestation”?

The comment period during demonstration programs is a time for industry stakeholders to review the proposed changes and voice their opinion.

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