The Most Northeastern City in the United States.

Housing Quality Standards Inspection

Caribou Municipal Building
25 High St
Caribou, Maine 04736
Phone: (207) 493-4234
Fax: (207) 376-0178
E-mail: housing@cariboumaine.org

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HOUSING QUALITY STANDARDS (HQS) INSPECTIONS

 To ensure that your unit is clean and safe to live in, it must meet CHA’s Housing Quality Standards (HQS).  Your unit must pass an HQS inspection before your HAP contract can be signed, and then at least once each year during the term of the contract.

Both the tenant and the owner have specific responsibilities to make sure that the rental unit meets HQS standards at all times.

TYPES OF INSPECTIONS

There are six types of inspections:

Initial Inspections

Your unit must pass inspection before you can receive subsidy.  Even if you are already living in the unit, CHA must inspect the unit before the HCV subsidy process can begin.  If the unit fails the initial HQS inspection, the property owner will have 30 days to make any necessary repairs and schedule a second inspection.  If the unit fails a second time, the RTA will be denied and you will need to find another unit.

  • Annual Inspections

HUD rules require that CHA inspect all assisted units each year.

  • Quality Control Inspections

CHA may conduct a Quality Control Inspection of your unit. This is an HQS inspection that CHA conducts to ensure that inspections are being conducted properly and accurately.  CHA requires that a sample of units be re-inspected each year to ensure that HQS standards are being followed.

  • Verification Inspections

CHA may conduct a Verification Inspection on your unit if the owner has submitted self-certification that non-emergency HQS violations have been repaired.   CHA requires that a sample of units with owner self-certified repairs be re-inspected each year to ensure that HQS standards are being followed.

  • Special Inspections

If the CHA receives a complaint about the condition of a unit at any time, a Complaint Inspection will be scheduled. If the complaint is deemed to be an emergency based on the criteria listed earlier, the inspection will be scheduled for the following day whenever feasible.  If the complaint is not considered an emergency, the inspection will be scheduled within 10 business days.

CHA may also conduct a Special Inspection to verify who is living in the unit.

  • Emergency Inspections

If an inspector discovers a serious failure that threatens the health or safety of the participant, the failure items must be corrected within 24 hours.

Below are some examples of 24-hour emergency failure items:

  • The unit is uninhabitable due to fire, flood or other natural disasters
  • Security issues such as missing or broken locks on exterior doors
  • Major plumbing leaks that may cause the ceiling or floor to cave-in
  • Gas or fuel leaks
  • Electricity problems that might result in shock or fire
  • Utilities that are not in service
  • Blocked entrances or exits
  • No functioning toilet
  • Sewer backed-up in unit
  • Missing smoke detectors and/ carbon monoxide detectors
  • Heating system that is not working or cannot maintain 68 degrees between during the heating season

If the owner is responsible for the failure and does not fix the issue within 24 hours, CHA will stop (abate) the HAP to the owner.  If the participant is responsible and does not repair the problem within 24 hours, CHA will begin termination proceedings.

SCHEDULING INSPECTIONS

In order for CHA to schedule an Initial Inspection, you must submit a completed Landlord Package to CHA.  Once the rent and landlord are approved an inspection will be scheduled.

Scheduling Annual Inspection

CHA will schedule Annual Inspections automatically.  Annual Inspections may be scheduled less than 12 months apart.

  • You will receive written notification of your inspection appointment.
  • If you need to reschedule, you must contact CHA before the scheduled appointment date.
  • If you miss the first scheduled appointment without requesting a new date, a second inspection will automatically be scheduled for you.
  • Your assistance may be terminated if you miss two scheduled inspection appointments without CHA approval.

ENTERING THE UNIT

 Tenant Responsibility

You must provide access to your apartment for CHA HQS inspections.  Someone at least 18 years of age must be home to allow the inspector into your unit.

If you do not provide access to your unit, it will delay processing of your subsidy and may result in termination of your assistance. If you are not yet living in the unit, the owner must provide access for the Initial Inspection.

Owner Responsibility

Owners are responsible for providing access to the unit for Initial Inspections, unless the tenant is already living in the unit.

If the owner misses two inspection appointments, the Landlord Package will be rejected and you will be sent a notice, offering you a voucher to locate another unit.  If you do not respond to the offer, your application may be denied.

PASSING INSPECTION

To pass inspection, your unit must be clean and safe to live in.

Your unit must meet HUD ‘s Housing Quality Standards (HQS).  The unit must have:

  • Central heat
  • Hot and cold water
  • A private bathroom with all facilities
  • A fully-equipped kitchen
  • A window or other outside light source in each living room and bedroom
  • An adequate number of bedrooms for your family
  • Adequate lighting
  • Proper ventilation
  • Walls, floors, and ceiling in good shape
  • The building must be in good, clean condition, properly secured, and free from safety hazards.

The most common HQS deficiencies that result in inspection failures are related to:

  • Missing or inoperable smoke detectors
  • Missing or inoperable carbon monoxide detectors
  • Chipping and/or peeling interior and exterior paint
  • Holes in walls and/or ceilings
  • Missing or unreadable 911-unit number
  • Ungrounded 3-prong electrical outlets
  • Non-functional ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets
  • Missing or inoperable GFCI outlets
  • Bathroom ventilation (non-working window or fan) 

HOUSING QUALITY STANDARD REQUIREMENTS

 

 GENERAL ROOM STANDARDS

Ceiling

  • Assure that the room is reasonably weather tight (i.e. wet ceiling)
  • Not bulging or cracking
  • No presence of large holes
  • Not falling surface materials (i.e. plaster)
  • No missing parts (i.e. ceiling tile)

Floors

  • No buckling or major movement under walking stress
  • No large sections of damaged or missing parts
  • Large cracks or holes which penetrate both the finish floor and sub flooring
  • Permanent floor covering or floor boards, which present tripping hazards
  • Been in a finished state (i.e. no plywood or painted concrete)
  • Have some type of baseboard, trim or sealing for a “finished look”
  • Wood floors must be sanded to a smooth surface and sealed.
    • Any loose or warped boards must be re-secured and made levels, if not replaced.

Interior Doors

  • Be securely mounted
  • All required hardware and trim must be present and in proper working order
  • Locking hardware must correctly engage strike plates
  • Door surfaces must be in good repair, free of holes, and not showing signs of delaminating
  • Must operate smoothly without binding on frame or door
  • No deadbolts or padlocks

Location & Operability Requirements

  • Living room: Requires a window, but does not need to be openable
  • Kitchen: No requirement
  • Dining room: No requirement
  • Bedroom (or any other room used for sleeping): Requires a window and must be able to be opened
  • Bathrooms:
    • If a window is present, it must be openable if it is the only means of ventilation
    • If no window is present, must be a working exhaust fan

Space & Security

  • Unit must have a minimum of a living room, kitchen and bathroom
  • Must contain at least one sleeping or living/sleeping room for every two persons
  • The unit’s windows which are accessible from the outside, such as basement, first floor, and fire escape windows, must be lockable (i.e. windows with sash pins or sash locks, and combination windows with latches)
  • The unit’s exterior doors (i.e. those that allow to or from the unit) must lock properly

Walls

  • No buckling, bulging or leaning
  • Loose or damaged structural members
  • No holes
  • No holes, regardless of size which allow significant drafts to enter the unit
  • Chipping or peeling paint must be scraped and painted with two coats of unleaded paint or suitable material

Windows

  • Openable where required are reasonably weathertight
  • No missing or broken panes
  • No loose or cracked panes
  • Doesn’t allow drafts to enter unit
  • Screen(s) are not required, an elective
    • If present, must be in good condition, no holes or tears
  • Damaged or deteriorated sashes must be replaced
  • Must be weather-stripped as needed to ensure a watertight seal
  • Security bars are not allowed.

OTHER ROOMS FOR LIVING

Frequently Used Rooms

  • Finished basement
  • Playroom
  • Closed-Porch

Infrequently Used Rooms

  • Utility rooms
  • Attached/detached shed
  • Attached closed in porch, basement or garage, if it is closed off from the main living area.

BATHROOM

  • Bathroom must be in a separate room and have a flushable toile
  • Only one bathroom is required
  • Room must be from serious health and sanitary problems, such as:
    • Clogs
    • Water leaks
    • Sewer gas

Electricity & Light

  • Must have one permanent light fixture in working condition
  • No outlet is required
  • GFCI outlet is mandatory when outlet is within 6” of water source

Windows

  • Must have an openable window or a working exhaust fan
  • If window is near bathtub or shower, safety glass is mandatory

Washbasin

  • Be permanently installed
  • Connected to a gas trap
  • Have hot and cold running water in operating condition
  • Be connected to an approvable disposal system
  • Must have shut off valves, unless faucets are wall mounted
  • Must have functioning stopper

Bathtub or Shower

  • Have hot and cold running water in operating condition
  • Be connected to an approval disposal system
  • Must be adequately caulked or grouted and secured
  • Shower head flange must be secured to the wall

Toilet

  • Must be in operating condition
  • Worn or cracked toilet seats must be replaced
  • Toilet tank cover must fit properly

BEDROOM(S)

  • Not allowed in basements or attics unless they meet local code requirements.
  • Have adequate ventilation and emergency exit capability.

Electricity & Light

  • Must have either: two working outlets, or one working outlet and one permanently install light fixture.

Window

  • Must have an openable window.

KITCHEN           

  • Must provide space for the storage, preparation, and serving of food.
  • There must be facilities and services for the sanitary disposal of food waste and refuse, including temporary storage facilities where necessary (i.e. garbage containers).

Electricity & Light

  • Must have one working outlet and one working, permanently installed light fixture.
  • GFCI outlet is mandatory when outlet is within 6’ of water source

Oven and Stove or Range

  • Both the oven and stove (or range) with top burners must be present and working.
  • Chipped or cracked burner rings pass if they adequately support pots and pans.
  • All stove or range burner must work.
  • All operating knobs must be present.
  • An oven door must have a handle.
  • Gas stoves must light by pilot jets without the use of incendiary devices (i.e. matches, lighter, etc.).

Refrigerator

  • Must maintain a temperature low enough to prevent food from spoiling.
  • Must have capacity for storing frozen food.

Sink

  • Must have hot and cold running water.
  • Must have a drain properly connected to a gas trap.
  • Must be free of leaks.
  • A bathroom sink does not qualify for a kitchen sink.
  • Must have shut off valves, unless faucets are wall mounted.
  • Must have functioning stopper.

OTHER ROOMS

Laundry Room/Area

  • Must contain at least one grounded-type receptacle.
  • Washing machine needs a 110 Amp receptacle
  • Dryer need a 220 Amp receptacle.
  • Dryer vents need to be metal, not plastic.

Electricity

  • All interior wiring must be in the wall or protected by conduit.
  • Must ensure proper grounding of electrical system per the National Electrical Code.
  • All the outlets or lights must be working.
  • Each outlet must be permanently installed in the baseboard, wall or floor of the room and have cover plates.
  • A permanently-installed light fixture is one which is securely fastened to a ceiling or wall is not movable (designed to be hard wired).
  • Electrical switches must be securely mounted, function properly, and have cover plates.

Outlets Required: 

  • Living Room: Requires two outlets or, one outlet and one permanently installed ceiling or wall light fixture.
  • Kitchen: Requires one working outlet AND one permanently installed wall or ceiling fixture in working condition.  (A working outlet cannot substitute for a light fixture.)
  • Bathroom: Requires a permanent light fixture in working condition.  (A working outlet cannot substitute for a light fixture.)
  • Bedroom: Requires two outlets, or one outlet and one permanently installed light fixture.
  • Other room for sleeping: Requires two outlets, or one outlet and one permanently installed light fixture.
  • All Other Rooms: Requires a means of natural or artificial illumination (i.e. light fixture, wall outlet to serve a lamp, window in the room, or adequate light from an adjacent room).

Electrical Hazards

  • Missing or cracked switch and/or outlet cover plate(s).
  • An exposed fuse box connector or connections, missing knock-outs.
  • A non-working outlet.
  • Electric cords running under rugs or other floor coverings.

Circuit Breaker/Fuse Boxes

  • Must have permanent covers.
  • Must not have any missing knockouts or fuses.
  • Must not have a padlock on the breaker box unless keys are immediately accessible to the tenant and owner.

HEATING AND PLUMBING

Fuel Tanks

  • Must be sound, secured and maintained in a level position.

Heating System

  • Unit must contain a safe heating system which is in proper operating condition and can provide adequate heat, either directly or indirectly, to each room used for living in order to assure a healthy living environment appropriate to the climate.
  • Heating system must be capable of maintaining an interior temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit when it’s 20 below zero.
  • Free from unvented fuel burning space heaters or types of unsafe heating conditions.
  • Adequate ventilation and cooling by means of openable windows or a working cooling system.
  • System must be capable of providing adequate heat by:
    • Working radiator
    • Working hot air register
    • Baseboard heat

Plumbing:

  • Not subject to serious plumbing problems involving leaking or corroded pipes that could present a hazard to the occupant.

Water Heater

  • Gas water heaters may not be in bedrooms or other living areas.
  • Free from gas leakage.
  • Must have a temperature-pressure relief valve and discharge line.
  • Discharge line must be at least six inches from the floor.
  • Free from cracked or broken vent pipes on gas-fired water heaters.
  • Free from leaks.

Water and Sewer:

  • Served by an approvable public or private water supply and to guarantee that the unit will have adequate clean water.

BUILDING EXTERIOR

Chimney

  • Capable of safely carrying smoke, fumes and gasses from the unit to the outside
  • No missing bricks/stone
  • No missing chimney caps

Exterior Doors

  • Doors must be securely mounted.
  • All necessary hardware and trim must be present and in proper working order.
  • Locking hardware must properly engage strike plates.
  • Door surfaces must be in good repair (does not allow thermal transfer).
  • Must operate smoothly without binding on the doorframe or floor.
  • Have a threshold.

Exterior Stairs, Railing and Porches

  • Sound and free from hazards.
  • Must have a graspable handrail for three or more consecutive steps.
  • Must have a railing around a porch or balcony which is 30 inches or more above ground.

Exterior Walls

  • Free of:
    • Buckling, bowing or leaning.
    • Holes or defects that would allow vermin to enter.
  • Hazards of lead-based paint.

Foundation

  • Foundation must properly support the building and keep water out of the basement under normal rainfall conditions.
  • No cracks or missing stonework

Roofs and Gutters

  • Free of:
    • Buckling or sagging.
    • Holes which would allow water or air to enter the unit/building.

GENERAL HEALTH AND SAFETY

911 Numbers

  • All buildings must have a number.
  • All apartment doors must have a number.
  • Numbers on all units must be in compliant with the Caribou City Code

Access

  • The unit must have direct access for the tenant to enter and exit, without the unauthorized use of other private properties.
  • The building must provide an alternate means of exit in case of fire (such as fire stairs or exit through windows, with the use of a ladder if windows are above the second floor).
  • Entry/exits must not be “blocked” by debris, stored items, non-working locks, or doors that have been nailed shut or otherwise obstructed.

Exits

  • Unit must provide an alternate means of exit from the building in case of fire or another emergency.
  • Exits cannot be blocked or obstructed by debris, used as storage area, secured by nailing, etc.

Garbage and Vermin

  • Not be exposed to serious infestation of rats, mice or other potentially harmful vermin.
  • Not exposed to health hazards resulting from accumulation of garbage or trash in or about the unit.
  • Has adequate means of storage and disposal of garbage and refuse.

Housekeeping

  • The PHA may fail unsanitary units where food, garbage, excrement, filth, etc. exists to a degree where health can be damaged. CHA may also fail units where papers, clothes and trash are piled high and cause fire/health hazard.  These will be considered tenant violations.

Indoor Air Quality

  • Free from abnormally high levels of air pollution caused by carbon monoxide, sewer gas, fuel gas, dust or other harmful pollutants.
  • Must have adequate air circulation.

Interior Stairways and Common Hallways

  • Safe and adequately lighted.

Site and Neighborhood

  • The site and neighborhood must be reasonably free of serious conditions, which would endanger the health and safety of residents.
  • Yards and outside areas must be free of all clutter and debris.
  • Lawns and shrubs should be properly cared for the person(s) identified on the lease

Smoke Detectors

America ‘s fire death rate is one of the highest in the industrialized world. Fire kills nearly 4,000 and injures more than 20,000 people in the U.S. each year.

  • Your building owner is responsible for installing smoke detectors in accordance with the law.
  • Each unit must have at least one battery-operated and hard-wired smoke detector on each level of the unit, including basements, but excluding crawl spaces and unfinished attics.
  • Must be installed in accordance with and meet the requirements of National Fire Protection Association Standard (NFPA 74)
  • Installed outside of each separate sleeping area
    • Must be mounted:
      • On the ceiling at least 4 inches from a wall OR;
      • On a wall with the top of the detector not less than 4 inches nor more than 12 inches below the ceiling.
    • You are responsible for maintaining smoke detectors in working order, including replacing batteries. Do not under any circumstances remove the batteries without immediately replacing them.
    • Batteries should be replaced at least once a year.
    • If the detector is hard wired rather than battery operated, the landlord is responsible for maintaining the device.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Carbon monoxide is the leading cause of fatal poisonings in North America. Exposure to high concentrations of carbon monoxide can cause death in just a few minutes.

  • Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, toxic gas that is difficult for people to detect. With this in mind, it is important to have good ventilation, to maintain all appliances regularly, and to have a reliable carbon monoxide detector in your home.
  • Your landlord is responsible for installing carbon monoxide detectors in accordance with the law.
  • Carbon Monoxide Detectors are required in each area giving access to bedrooms in all types of units.
  • CO Detectors must be powered by a battery and the electrical service (plugged in or hardwired) in the building,
  • You are responsible for maintaining carbon monoxide detectors in working order, including replacing batteries.
  • Some of the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headache, dizziness, nausea, and shortness of breath. If you have any signs of carbon monoxide poisoning you should immediately go to a hospital emergency room, particularly if several people in the household are affected or if pets are affected as well.
  • If the detector is hard wired rather than battery operated, the landlord is responsible for maintaining the device.

Lead Based Paint

Many buildings in the State of Maine have layers of paint and plaster that contain lead. Every year thousands of children are poisoned from eating paint chips, dust, or plaster that contain lead. Lead poisoning can lead to disabilities, blindness, and even death.

  • Before your unit is approved for the HCV Program, it must meet federal requirements on lead-based paint. These requirements are reviewed during the initial HQS inspection.
  • The symptoms of lead poisoning are:
  • Extreme crankiness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Stomach aches
  • Frequent vomiting
  • These symptoms may not show up in the early stage of lead poisoning. If you have seen your child eating pieces of paint or plaster you should have your child tested for lead-based paint poisoning immediately, even if your child seems healthy.
  • If you have a child under the age of six in your apartment, you should check the walls, ceilings, window sills, railings, woodwork, and any other exposed paint surfaces in your apartment carefully.
  • If you see flaking or peeling paint or plaster, call your landlord or building manager immediately and ask them to fix the problem.

For more information on Lead-Based Paint, see “Protect Yourself from Lead Based Paint” booklet.

INSPECTION RESULTS & DETERMINATION OF RESPONSIBILITY

 INSPECTION RESULTS

The owner and the family will be notified in writing of the results of all inspections that need HQS attention. 

DETERMINATION OF RESPONSIBILITY

When an inspection identifies HQS failures, the CHA will determine (1) if the failure is life threatening condition and (2) whether the family or owner is responsible

Family is Responsible

Certain HQS deficiencies are considered the responsibility of the family:

  • Tenant-paid utilities not in service
  • Failure to provide or maintain family-supplied appliances
  • Damage to the unit or premises caused by a household member or guest beyond normal wear and tear
  • “Normal wear and tear” is defined as items which could be charged against the tenant’s security deposit under state law or court practice.

 Enforcing Family Compliance

Families are responsible for correcting any HQS violations listed in above. If the family fails to correct a violation with the time allowed by the CHA (and any extensions), the CHA will terminate the family’s assistance, according to the PHA’s policies.

If the owner carried out a repair for which the family is responsible under the lease, the owner may bill the family for the cost of the repair.

Owner is Responsible

The owner is responsible for all HQS violations not listed as a family responsibility, even if the violation is caused by the family’s living habits (e.g., vermin infestation).  However, if the family’s action constitutes a serious or repeated violation the owner may take legal action to evict the family.

       Enforcing Owner Compliance

If the owner fails to maintain the dwelling unit in accordance with HQS, the CHA must take prompt and vigorous action to enforce the owner obligations.

HAP Abatement

If an owner fails to correct HQS deficiencies by the time specified by the CHA, HUD requires the PHA to abate (“stop”) housing assistance payments no later than the first of the month following the specified correction period (including any approved extension).  No retroactive payments will be made to the owner for the period the rent was abated.  Owner rents are not abated because of HQS failures that are the family’s responsibility.

During any abatement period the family continues to be responsible for its share of the rent.  The owner must not seek payment from the family for abated amounts and may not use the abatement as cause for eviction.

      Termination of Contract

If the owner is responsible for repairs, and fails to correct all the deficiencies cited prior to the end of the abatement period, the owner will be sent a HAP Contract Proposed Termination Notice.  Prior to the effective date of the termination, the abatement will remain in effect.

If repairs are completed before the effective termination date, the termination maybe rescinded by the CHA if the tenant chooses to remain in the unit.  Only 1 HQS inspections will be conducted after the termination notice is issued. T

TIME FRAME FOR HQS REPAIRS

 Non-Emergency Repairs

For non-emergency items, the responsible party must make the necessary repairs within 30 calendar days.

Extensions

For conditions that are non-emergency, the CHA may grant an exception to the required time frames for correcting the violation, if the CHA determines that an extension is appropriate.

Life Threatening Repairs

HUD requires the CHA to define life threatening conditions and to notify the owner or the family (whichever is responsible) of the corrections required. The responsible party must correct life threatening conditions within 24 hours of CHA notification.

The following are considered life threatening conditions:

  • Any condition that jeopardizes the security of the unit.
  • Major plumbing leaks or flooding, waterlogged ceiling or floor in imminent danger of falling.
  • Natural or LPgas or fuel oil leaks.
  • Any electrical problem or condition that could result in shock or fire.
  • Absence of a working heating system when outside temperature is below 20
  • Utilities not in service, including no running hot water.
  • Conditions that present the imminent possibility of injury.
  • Obstacles that prevent safe entrance or exit from the unit.
  • Absence of a functioning toilet in the unit.
  • Inoperable or missing smoke detectors.
  • Inoperable or missing carbon monoxide detectors
  • Lack of security for the unit.
  • Broken glass where someone could be injured

The owner will be required to repair an inoperable smoke detector unless the CHA determines that the family has intentionally disconnected it (by removing batteries or other means). In this case, the family will be required to repair the smoke detector within 24 hours.

The CHA may give a short extension (not more than 8 additional hours) whenever the responsible party cannot be notified or it is impossible to affect the repair within the 24-hour period.           

In those cases where there is leaking gas or potential of fire or other threat to public safety, and the responsible party cannot be notified or it is impossible to make the repair, proper authorities will be notified by the CHA.

Extensions

For conditions that are life-threatening, the CHA cannot grant an extension to the 24-hour correct action period.

 Notification of Completed Repairs

It is the responsibility of the responsible party to notify the CHA, in writing, when all necessary HQS repairs have been completed.  If the party does not notify the PHA by the required deadline, the PHA will assume the repairs have not been completed and will begin either the abatement or termination process.

In the case of repairs that deal with electrical and/or plumbing, a copy of the bill, or a statement signed by the licensed professional, needs to accompany the written notification of completion.