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HUD Releases “UPCS Guidance & Protocol Clarification”

This week HUD released a document titled “UPCS Guidance & Protocol Clarification

…which will be effective as of May 23, 2016. This document addresses inquiries submitted by REAC Inspectors. The document, while helpful in some respects, contains a few changes that represent significant alterations to the UPCS Inspection Protocol, as well as clarifying questions about the process of performing REAC and UPCS Inspection to reiterate long-held practices.

Overgrown/Penetrating Vegetation

The very first item addressed states that “There is some vegetation touching a fence but it is not causing any damage. Is this a defect?” HUD REAC answers, “No defect.” This answer is simple and would be satisfactory if it were not for page 47738, Appendix 2 of the Federal Register stating “Vegetation contacts or penetrates an unintended surface, such as buildings, gutters, fences/walls, roofs, HVAC units, etc., but you see no visible damage” as a Level 2 deficiency. Fundamental changes to inspection protocols, such as removing a deficiency needs to be done through the Federal Register, so this change appears to be limited only to “Fences”.

We spoke with a HUD REAC staff person, and it appears that this change is limited to overgrown vegetation making contact with fences or in land-areas that are not in active use. All that being said, this particular change is very unclear, and the guidance remains in need of clarification. Until clearer language is available, we would recommend applying this only to the most minor and incidental contact of vegetation to fences, such as vines, minor contact of branches or hedges that do not cause damage.

The document did supply some points of clarification that had otherwise been loosely defined and more or less up to the interpretation of the inspector.

Damaged Laundry Vent Louvers

These are now to be recorded under “Holes”. If the exterior exhaust cover plate for a clothes dryer is missing or damaged, it should be considered a penetration and recorded as a hole in the building’s exterior. This will presumably be recorded under Building Exterior Walls – Holes larger than 1/2″ in diameter, which is a Level 2 deficiency.

Testing Zip Ties on Electrical Enclosures

Another point of clarification is regarding the inspection of zip ties used to secure electrical enclosures. Whether or not to test the zip tie is still the judgment of the inspector, but there are two clarifications here: 1) if it breaks and there are wires exposed, it is a defect; 2) if there are no wires exposed from the zip-tie breaking, it is not to be recorded as a deficiency.

“When Tenants Hang Stuff on the Door”

The third clarification that we identify in the document is regarding self-latching doors. We have always considered it acceptable to allow a resident or owner/manager to remove items like door hangers or door sweeps to show that the door does function as designed, but we have seen time and time again that this comes into question. The clarification document should put that to rest.

Testing Self-Latching Doors

Included in this document is a clarification on testing “self-closing” doors. The inspector should make not more than two attempts to confirm that the door closes, no more, no less. If the door does not close on the first attempt, the inspector should open the door at a different angle for the second attempt. In addition to this, a resident or Owner/Manager cannot open a window to assist the door closing. The door needs to operate whether or not a window is open.

Door Hardware/Strike Plates

Another change regarding unit doors is regarding missing strike plates. Even if the door still functions, a missing strike plate is now considered a deficiency.

Caulking on a Breaker/Fuse Panel is now to be Considered a Health and Safety Hazard

The final change that we will cover here is one that we expect will have an impact on a lot of properties: Caulk or any other “foreign material” can no longer be used to repair electrical panels. The standard defined here is that openings in electrical panels must be “properly covered”. While it is not directly stated in the clarifications document, we can deduce that this means that repairs need to be made using components made specifically for this use.

Certified REAC Inspections Providing Consulting Services

A general question that was addressed is whether or not current certified REAC Inspectors are permitted to be hired to “shadow” during an inspection – the answer here is a simple “No”. Under the new IA Business rules, a certified REAC Inspector is not allowed to be on the property unless he/she is the one performing the inspection.

While there may be more than we point out, a couple of the basic questions submitted and ultimately published in this document are, 1) no, aluminum foil in an oven is not a deficiency – it never has been. 2) Yes, the resident or the owner/manager can open a window to show that it is operable. No one expects the inspector to crawl on top of someone’s unkempt bed to test a window – seeing that the window is operable and that the hardware functions as intended is sufficient.

We suspect that there will be more and more changes of this nature coming in the future, as with the advent of photos being included on REAC Inspections, HUD is able to perform better analytics to determine what is being done incorrectly on REAC Inspections and make adjustments to make the process better for everyone in the industry. But as these rules become more intricate and constantly changing, It is more important than ever to consult a professional and to base your preparations on the current rules and not common sense.

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