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REAC Issues Revised Guidance to Inspectors

by Published On: May 01, 2011Updated On: Jul 01, 2016
HUD

Physical inspections performed on behalf of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) must comply with all current guidance including the final rule on Physical Condition Scoring Notice and Revised Dictionary of Deficiency Definitions.  

And updated instructions to inspectors, which periodically are combined into a signed "Compilation Bulletin" and posted for public access. 

In addition to the July issuance of a new "Industry Repairs Standard," HUD issued on May 13, 2016 a document titled “UPCS Guidance & Protocol Clarification,” which became 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.

Notable clarifications include:

  • Testing Zip Ties on Electrical Enclosures: Regarding the inspection of zip ties used to secure electrical enclosures, the ultimate decision as to 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. 
  • Tenant Decorations Impeding Door Closure: This clarification is on self-latching doors and indicates that a resident or owner/manager MAY in fact remove items like door hangers or door sweeps to show that the door does function as designed. 
  • Testing Self-Latching Doors - According to the document, 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. 

However, certain clarifications also represent clear or more subtle changes to the as-written protocol, including: 

  • Door Hardware/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:  As is also covered in the repairs standards document, 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, training specialists understand this to mean that repairs need to be made using components made specifically for this use.

A general question of key interest to those who have hired inspection contractors to help prepare for or to be present during the inspection. The question, 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.  

[As always, anyone accompanying the REAC inspector or REAC Quality Assurance inspector during a follow-up inspection is encouraged to keep questions focused solely on clarification of the item being inspected, but not to challenge the assessment of a deficiency. Photos may be taken by property staff or representatives as well as the inspector calls out the fact that a deficiency has been noted.]

Latest Compilation Bulletin

A Compilation Bulletin dated 3/15/15 called "Rapid 4.0 Version 2" applies to all physical inspections conducted using the HUD UPCS protocol and includes and supersedes all previous editions and updates. It incorporates all previous guidance that HUD has given on a number of matters pertaining to physical inspections. It provides answers to some of the most common questions received from inspectors in the field and clarifies certain areas of the inspection protocol to further ensure that physical inspections are objective and conducted in accordance with the protocol.

Earlier Compilation Bulletins

A "Compilation Bulletin" was posted in Aug. 2014, for effect on Sept, 12, 2014. Details follow below in the section titled "Updated Inspector Guidance."  

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) latest issued a final notice on Physical Condition Scoring and a Revised Dictionary of Deficiency Definitions became effective Jan. 1, 2013. 

The process for issuing scores contained new caps to prevent undue point loss for single item deficiencies, and the new definitional elements (many reflecting changes negotiated in group meetings with HUD including LeadingAge staff).

For multifamily housing properties assisted with project-based Section 8 that is attached to the structure, section 202 and section 811 capital advances and loans for supportive housing for the elderly and persons with disabilities, and for multifamily housing properties with mortgages insured or held by HUD or that are receiving insurance from HUD, as listed at 24 CFR 200.853(b), this notice is effective for all inspections conducted on Jan. 1, 2013 and thereafter.

The major revision was the addition of a point loss cap, which limits the amount by which a single deficiency in an inspectable area could reduce the overall property score.  This change was incorporated after HUD reviewed complaints about situations where the reduction from a single deficiency was so severe as to be unfair. The process for issuing scores and the changes in this notice apply to the physical condition inspection process for both multifamily and public housing properties. 

Further, the Dictionary of Deficiencies was changed to introduce technical modifications and clarifications to a number of deficiencies, including building exterior, building systems, common areas, units, site, and health and safety.    

Updated Inspector Guidance 

A new REAC Compilation Bulletin (CB) for RAPID 4.0 has been issued, effective Aug. 12, 2014, and supersedes all previous editions and any preceding separate guidance. 

The REAC CB provides answers to some of the most common questions received from inspectors in the field and clarifies certain areas of the inspection protocol to further ensure that physical inspections are objective and conducted in accordance with the Uniform Physical Condition Standards (UPCS) and HUD's inspection protocol. 

The latest prior comprehensive update was in Aug. 2012.

This compilation document provides additional guidance to REAC approved inspectors regarding the rules and methods for conducting REAC inspections, such as when certain areas of the property are and are-not inspected and other details about the "nuts and bolts" of conducting inspections.

The majority of the document puts in writing those practices that have been part of the accepted day to day for several years, such as how inspectors should handle commercial spaces in buildings without a HUD insured mortgage. There are new sections dealing with mobile home parks and group homes, and dealing with model units and other areas previously unaddressed. There has been an increase in the number of properties participating in HUD mortgage programs that are outside the traditional HUD subsidized programs.

Among items of primary interest to LeadingAge's subsidized senior housing providers are:

  • Call-for-Aid - Call-for-Aid Systems will not be evaluated for deficiencies if all pull stations have been removed from the resident's apartments and all that
    remains is the light fixture over the unit's door and/or the old enunciator panel is still mounted on a wall in the lobby. If any part of the old system remains inside the unit, then the inspector must evaluate this situation as an inoperable Call-for-Aid system.
  • Off-Site Notification and Monitoring - If the property can provide current (within one year) documentation supporting the testing of a system designed for
    off-site notification/monitoring (call-for-aid, smoke detector, etc.) the inspector does not need to inspect the individual components and all should be marked "NOD".
  • If the property cannot provide the proper documentation and cannot put the equipment into a "test mode" for inspection purposes, all relevant items should be marked "OD". 

As with the Call-for-Aide, where components have been removed, the guidance given inspectors is generally that components that have been entirely removed from service should not be evaluated, assuming that some reasonable attempts have been made to remove the system from service. 

Examples of this include trash chutes that aren't in use anymore; the doors would need to be welded shut or screwed shut to show that the system is permanently off-line. Other examples include an old boiler in a mechanical room that is no longer in use, the boiler would need to have pipes removed and some indication provided to show that the owner has clearly endeavored to permanently take the item out of service. 

If there is "any doubt" that the item can be brought back into active service at some point, then it should be inspected for deficiencies.

Scott Precourt, a frequent presenter on REAC inspections at LeadingAge national and state affiliate conferences, has posted additional information and analysis on the U.S. Housing Consultants website.

HUD's most recent previously posted REAC Compilation Bulletin (May 1, 2012), provided specific instructions on how to inspect and record deficiencies related to resident-owned property that may pose health and safety risks such as blocking egress, or fire exits:

  • Refrigerators.
  • Stoves.
  • Window air conditioners.
  • Fire extinguishers.
  • Resident-owned furniture.
  • Other items. 

The following are the direct citations/excerpts from the HUD REAC website and guidebook

The REAC Compilation Bulletin 2.2 has been modified to include a list of revisions. Please carefully review the revisions (below) as 2 of the 3 revisions are effective as of August 6, 2012. 

The third revision has been in effect prior to this date and is now a part of the official compilation bulletin. The remainder of the bulletin remains the same as the previously released REAC Compilation Bulletin 2.1 version.

Revision 1
(Effective August 8, 2012) 

Refrigerators, stoves, and window air conditioners owned by the resident must be inspected and deficiencies recorded, including H&S deficiencies, as if the appliances are owned by the property. POAs may continue to submit TR/DBA requests for cited deficiencies for these resident owned items.

All other resident-owned property will be inspected for H&S deficiencies only. These H&S deficiencies must be recorded as Health and Safety, Hazards, Other. Examples of “resident owned property” are fire extinguishers, mirrors, picture frames, fan covers, play equipment, etc.

Resident owned property, including furniture, appliances or other devices that prohibits access to call-for-aids (pull cords) or creates a blocked egress must be cited as Call-For-Aid, Inoperable or Health and Safety, Emergency/Fire Exits, Blocked/Unusable as applicable. Refer to Part II., Units., C. Call-for-Aid, and Part II., Health and Safety,

A. Emergency/Fire Exits
Improperly stored flammable materials will be recorded as Health and Safety, Flammable Materials, Improperly Stored, regardless of ownership.
Revision #1 replaces: (Part II: Definition Clarifications, Units, Page 29, Unit General Information. 1. Refrigerators, stoves, fire extinguishers, and window air conditioners owned by the resident must be inspected and deficiencies recorded as if the appliances are owned by the property.

Revision 2
(Effective August 8, 2012) 

All fire extinguishers observed must be inspected, whether resident owned or property owned. Fire extinguishers owned and supplied by the property that are missing, expired, discharged, or otherwise damaged will be cited as a deficiency regardless of whether or not the extinguisher is required by local code. 

Fire extinguishers owned and supplied by the residents will be cited only for H&S deficiencies and any such deficiencies recorded as Health and Safety, Hazards, Other. Refer to Part II, Units. 

Revision 2 replaces Part II: Definition Clarifications, Building Systems, Page 24, F. Fire Protection, Section 2. a. All fire extinguishers observed must be inspected, whether resident owned or property owned.

Revision 3
(Effective March 10, 2012)

Scattered Site: Inspectors are required to visit all of the locations in the scattered site property to visually verify all building and unit counts prior to sample generating. After generating the sample and selecting the sample buildings and units, inspectors are only required to re-visit and inspect the sample buildings and units and the sites associated with the sample buildings. 

If a building that is selected as part of the sample is on a multiple building location, the entire site for that location must be inspected.

Previous Changes

Starting May 1, 2011, all physical inspections initiated by the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) must be conducted according to the new standards and practices outlined in the Real Estate Assessment Center (REAC) Compilation Bulletin, Revision 2, a 36-page bulletin that lists the rules governing how REAC Inspections are performed and the interpretations to the UPCS Inspection protocol.

The REAC Compilation Bulletin, Revision 2, provides answers to some of the most common questions received from inspectors in the field and clarifies certain areas of the inspection protocol to further ensure that physical inspections are objective and conducted in accordance with the protocol. 

Of particular interest to members will be latest guidance on fire extinguishers, pull cords (call-for-aid), and waiver of inspection for systems designed for off-site notification (with appropriate documentation).

What's in the REAC Compilation Bulletin, Revision 2

Generally, the new bulletin incorporates all previous guidance that HUD has given on a number of matters pertaining to physical inspections through frequently asked questions (FAQ), etc. It includes: 

  • A greatly expanded discussion about responsibilities and expected/allowed behavior of the inspector and any  quality assurance inspector (pp 2 - 8).
  • The inclusion of periodic references of using “professional common sense."
  • A few (very limited) exclusions about inspectability or responsibility for resident-owned/installed items (additional door seals). But most things, refrigerators, stoves , fire extinguishers and window air conditioners owned by the resident remain within the domain of inspectability, and deficiencies are to be recorded as if the appliances are owned by the property (Part 2, Unit, item A.1, page 29).

Participation in the inspection by property representatives is also addressed, adding a few requirements such as "responsibility for ensuring access and doing all testing of smoke detectors and any other inspectable items more than 8 feet above the floor” (Part 1: General Information; Section C.1.m (p. 4), and Part 2:Common Areas; Section A.2; (p. 26), and the continued responsibilities for property representatives regarding the operation of stoves/ranges in units and in common areas.

Among other more significant rule changes, this new part regarding waiver of inspection requirements where adequate documentation can be provided for off-site monitoring of systems:  

  • Part 1: Systems; Section P (p. 8) - Systems Designed for Off-Site Notification/Monitoring - If the property can provide current (within one year) documentation supporting the testing of a system designed for off-site notification/monitoring (call-for-aide, smoke detector, etc) the inspector does not need to inspect the individual components and all should be marked "No Observed Deficiencies."

There is extensive discussion/clarification about types of and requirements for doors.Of particular interest, an exclusion allowing for the accessibility or even preferential accommodation of the removal of interior doors without removing all evidence of their having existed (i.e., doors between bedroom/living room or bedroom/bathroom, or presumably also closet doors).  

  •  Part 2: Doors; Section A, Item 11  (p. 15) – “Doors in units that have been removed by the property, other than in elderly or handicapped units, must have all evidence of their previous existence removed.” 

After much discussion with HUD/REAC on this, we are very pleased to see a new Fire Protection clarification that addresses paint on specific elements of fire protection systems like sprinkler systems, without impacting operability. Specifically, the bulletin now reads: "paint on an escutcheon plate should not be recorded as a deficiency” (Part 2: Systems; Section F, Item 1, (p. 24)). There is also a helpful instruction that clarifies treatment of extinguishers removed for servicing by clarifying that “extinguishers…[obviously] stored..with the intention of being disposed of or serviced at a later date" should not be inspected (Part 2: Systems, Section F, Item 2.e. (p. 24)).    

However, the same area of guidance now indicates that “all fire extinguishers observed must be inspected, resident owned and property owned” and should be included in the count used to determine proportionality and level of deficiency, with additional guidance on checking gauges of re-chargeable and disposable fire-extinguishers, and that fire hoses must also be included (and how they are to be recorded) within the inspection protocol.

And, as one of the ever-concerning issues (and frequently changing instructions), the description/clarification on call-for-aid has been somewhat modified (Part 2: Unit; Section C; page 29), and now reads as follows:

     C. Call-For-Aid 

    1. Call-for-aid as installed must serve its intended function. (e.g. A bell sounds an alarm, a light is turned on or off-site personnel are notified when the system is activated.) 
    2. When recording an "Inoperable," Level 3 deficiency and providing comments such as coiled-up, not fully extended, more than “x” distance from the floor, taped to the wall, etc., inspectors are also required to address the system functionality as supporting justification.
    3. Failure to provide the appropriate comments will result in the uploaded inspection being challenged by REAC. If the property has replaced the old Call-for-Aid system with a new electronic neck or hand-held type of system, the presence of any part of an inoperable system that remains must be recorded as "Inoperable," Level 3.  

The apparent intent is to preserve the distinction between system functionality and length of cord.The instruction is to note deficiency findings only for functionality, but instructions allowing descriptions to incorporate cord position and length may again cause some confusion about cord length relating to functionality. 

Only time will tell, along with member feedback based on experiences.  

Finally, there are some new explanations specific to the inspection of Nursing Homes and Group Homes, as follows: 

  • Part 1: Buildings and Units; Section G, Item 2  (p. 12) – Nursing and Group Home Units

 – inspectors are instructed to generate an inspection sample based on the number of client rooms/units rather than by the number of beds, conduct the inspection in a specific directional/flow pattern “because client rooms do not always have assigned numbers,” and to record client rooms as one-bedroom units

  •  And Part 2: Common Areas; Section A, Item 3 (p. 26)    

  • Medical-related equipment found in nursing and group homes is not included in the UPCS software and must not be inspected

You can access full details on the compilation bulletin from REAC or download the REAC Compilation Bulletin, Revision 2.

 



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