Erosion/Rutting

In this December edition of our HUD-REAC newsletter, and especially during the rainy season, I’d like to discuss HUD’s protocol on Erosion and Rutting and how you can comply!

 

HUD’s Definition of Erosion and Rutting

  • Erosion and Rutting
    • Natural processes, weathering, erosion, gravity, or man-made processes have caused either of these conditions:
      1. Collection or removal of surface material
      2. Sunken tracks, ruts, grooves, or depressions

*This does not include erosion/rutting from a defined storm drainage system or in a play area – these are covered in those inspectable areas

  • There is no Level 1 choice for Erosion/Rutting
  • Level 2 is defined as:
    1. Erosion has caused surface material to collect, leading to a degraded surface that would likely cause water to pool in a confined area, especially next to structures, paved areas, or walkways.
    2. A rut/grove is 6-8 inches wide AND 3-5 inches deep
  • Level 3 is defined as:
    1. Runoff has extensively displaced soil, which has caused visible damage or the potential failure of adjoining structures or systems, such as pipes, pavements, foundations, building, etc.
    2. Advanced erosion threatens the safety of pedestrians or makes an area of the grounds unusable
    3. There is a rut larger than 8 inches wide by 5 inches deep.
  • General Rules
    • For Erosion to be recorded, it MUST have displaced soil.
    • Bare ground is NOT erosion (such as the area under a tree or path that residents use but does not have grass growing on it)
Not Erosion!

Not Erosion!

advanced erosion

Without support, the slab will crack (L3)

erosion with damage

This is commonly caused by a sprinkler aimed at the slab (L3)

When inspectors see irrigation lines, it’s an automatic erosion deficiency. Bubblers not included (those are designed to be on top of the soil) (L2)

steep slope erosion

On a steep slope, after you install the 50/50 dirt-concrete mix, you may need a mini retaining wall to help support the slab. (L3)

  • What to do about Erosion and Rutting
    • Try to find the root cause of the erosion/rutting and fix the cause
    • Do NOT try to hide the erosion with hay, bark, loosely packed soil, etc – inspectors are permitted to move it away to see if you’re trying to hide it.
    • Many properties tell me that using a 50/50 dirt-concrete mix greatly reduces the chances of future run-off and obviously reduces the labor time of having to reapply the dirt every time it rains!
    • Do NOT drive carts/lawnmowers on the landscaping after a rain or super-soak from your sprinklers.
    • In snow country – be careful about using oversized snowplows for sidewalk snow removal. This creates huge ruts and subsequent erosion next to the sidewalk slabs.
    • Consider large river rocks or mini-retaining walls around difficult to maintain erosion areas.
    • If you do not wish to use plastic/PVC corrugated piping, concrete or plastic splash blocks under downspouts, you can use large river rocks (consider it like a French drain). This is to prevent the water from pooling next to the foundation or runoff from the foundation– you want to divert the water away from the foundation.

Blocked Egress

In this November edition of our HUD-REAC newsletter, I’d like to discuss HUD’s protocol on Blocked Egresses and how you can comply!

 

General Rules

  • Doors and doorways are ALWAYS considered primary egress
    • If a room has 2 doors and a window – the window can be blocked as long as both doors are accessible/egressable
  • All rooms up to the 3rd floor – if the room is designed with 2 means of egress, both must be egressable.
    • What does this really mean?
      • A closet is typically designed with only 1 egress – the door. An inspector cannot require you to install a window to meet the 2 means of egress rule
      • Some buildings have windows that are designed to open 6 inches or are leuvered, which makes them non-egressable windows – since they are not designed to be egressable, they are not required to be!
    • No items can be stored on an exterior fire escape.
    • Security Bars
      • When fixed security bars (with no quick release) are installed on the only 2nd means of egress from a room on the third floor or lower or on any floor where the window leads to a fire escape, a blocked egress will be
      • A hasp on security bars itself is NOT a deficiency, unless there is a locking mechanism (whether locked or unlocked) on the hasp or requires a tool to get the security bars open.
      • The break-away for security bars cannot be blocked by a bed or other furniture
    • Child Safety Window Guards
      • Normally found in apartments and public hallways to protect children 10 years and younger from falling to the outside.
      • Typically lightweight metal construction and can be dislodged with a reasonable degree of force when necessary.
      • Are NOT a blocked egress unless they are improperly installed or constructed.
    Approved Child Window Safety Guards

    Approved Child Window Safety Guards

  • Windows
    • Inspectors are required to “use their professional judgment” to determine if the level of effort required to open a window constitutes a deficiency for being inoperable and/or a blocked egress.
    • If the only window in a room has an Air Conditioner installed in it – whether secured or not – it is a blocked egress.
      1. Floor A/C units with the vent attached at the window with a slider kit are absolutely acceptable as long as the slider kit is installed correctly – no tape, glue, screws, etc!
      2. I have seen many successful installations using a weather strip to prevent insects and air gaps – no tape!
      3. I recommend installing a stick or thumb lock on the window if the tenant has the vent through the window for security. The inspector will remove the vent and test the primary lock but it’s good to have the window secured since the tenants typically do not remove the vent when they leave their units.
    • If the window doesn’t open or does not stay open by itself, it’s a blocked egress.
    • For Nursing Homes, Dementia, Behavioral Health Centers, etc – If the window is intentionally blocked for tenant safety AND meets State and Local Codes (is approved by the Fire Marshal) you will need to do the following:
      1. Get a letter from the Fire Marshal on his/her letterhead, signed, dated with his/her license number approving the blockage.
      2. File a Pre-Database Adjustment (Pre-DBA) with HUD and request the Pre-DBA be permanently applied for all blocked egresses AND Level 3 Window Inoperable defects.

*Inspectors will still record the L3 Inoperable Window and EH&S for Blocked Egress, but with the Pre-DBA in place – those scored items will be removed prior to report release!

  • If a tool (screwdriver, pliers, etc.) is required to open a window that is considered a 2nd egress – it’s blocked.
  • When looking at a window that has a partial obstruction due to furniture, ask yourself 2 questions:
    1. Can a bulky firefighter with all his/her gear get in quickly?
    2. Can a child/elderly person get out quickly?

Or you can go by Code:

  • Doors
    • Double-sided Keyed Deadbolts
  • Permitted to be installed:
  1. Common Area laundry rooms, shops and offices – as long as they are not in the direct path of egress for the units
  2. Unit mechanical closets
  3. Unit exterior sheds and/or exterior storage closets
  • Not permitted
  1. Any common area in the direct path of Unit egress (hallways, lobbies, stairways, etc)
  2. Any door in the unit, including the security door. Exception: The mechanical closet or exterior shed/closet (see above)
  • If ANY door in the direct path of egress requires the use of a tool (key, screwdriver, combination, etc) to open it – it’s blocked. For example, an inverted passage lock on a bathroom, bedroom, or closet door.
  • Hasp locks (other than for security bars, mechanical closets or exterior sheds/closets) are an automatic blocked egress whether the padlock is present or not.
  • Lastly, the inspector will consider the tenant population when evaluating obstructions in the path of egress. For instance, in a senior building where a unit has an excessive amount of disorganized belongings, an inspector would not expect the resident to be able to parkour their way to the door or window in the event of a fire.

 

Call-For-Aids

(Also known as Emergency Calls, Pull Cords, etc.)

 

In this October edition of our HUD-REAC newsletter, I’d like to discuss HUD’s protocol on Call-For Aids and how you can comply!

 

General Rules

    • If you have off-site monitoring, you can supply the inspector with a certification (within 1 year of the REAC inspection) from a local authority having jurisdiction or licensed third party that ALL of the units tested and passed inspection. The REAC inspector will then only inspect for access to the pull cord / button. Generally, the printouts provided from the agencies are not sufficient – the REAC inspectors should be satisfied with a statement certifying that the system was tested in its entirety with no defects on the company’s letterhead, signed and dated.
    • If you do not or cannot get the letter certifying the system was tested, you will need to place the system in test mode for the day and the REAC inspector will test all components:
      1. Bell/Alarm turns on
      2. On/Off site personnel are notified
      3. Light outside door turns on, etc.
    • If you have replaced your old system with a new electronic neck or hand-held type of system, ALL the old components in the units must be removed (you can replace the old call-for-aid with a blank cover plate). The following can be left in place:
      1. Light fixture over unit door
      2. Old enunciator panel in office/hall
    • Please see the attached Memo issued by HUD on 10/31/2014 regarding older emergency call systems. To the best of my knowledge, if you want to get rid of the system entirely, you will have to get the written permission from your local HUD office.
    • REAC inspectors will record a deficiency if the cord is tied up, blocked, or does not extended to “baseboard height.”
      • HUD did not intend inspectors to record the cord not being baseboard height when the baseboard is 2 inches high – but many are following the rule to the letter and they wouldn’t be wrong.
      • Do not pool the string on the floor as that is considered a tripping hazard by OSHA.
    • Many properties complain cats pull the string. Additionally, I have seen countless Call-For-Aids installed directly above the toilet paper roll! Numerous properties report 100% successful catproofing by using an eye screw!  Pull the string to a 45° angle and affix to the wall using the eye screw.  You can also place another eye screw near the baseboard to keep it relatively flush to the wall.

    • Many properties use condensers to easily lengthen the cord

 

  • Lastly, consider adding an addendum to your lease for the tenant (or family) to sign that “I will not block nor tie up my emergency pull cord.” California is the land of lawsuits…

NSPIRE (National Standards for Physical Inspection of Real Estate)

In this September edition of our HUD-REAC newsletter, I’d like to discuss HUD’s NSPIRE Model Demonstration.

  • NSPIRE is expected to overhaul HUD’s 20-year-old inspection process!
    • Will allegedly be a 2-year Demonstration (most likely longer)
  • HUD will inspect approximately 4500 properties from a pool of nationwide volunteers who are willing to adopt the new physical inspection standards.
  • The GOAL is to design a new simplified inspection system that more accurately reflects the physical conditions within housing units and to place a greater emphasis on LBP (lead-based paint) hazards and mold.
    • Prioritizing health, safety and functional defects over those about appearance.
  • Proposed plan: Rule of 3’s:
    • 3 Types of Inspections
      1. Property Owner/Agent (POA Self Inspections
      2. REAC Contracted Inspections
      3. HUD QA (Quality Assurance) Inspections
    • 3 Categories of Deficiencies – Resident Focused
      1. Health & Safety
      2. Function & Operability
      3. Condition & Appearance
    • 3 Inspectable Areas – Complexity Reduced
      1. Unit (worth 50% of score)
      2. Inside (worth 25% of score)
      3. Outside (worth 25% of score)
  • Website where you can volunteer to participate in demonstration AND provide Feedback on the Standards they have currently released:
    • Linked here.
    • Benefits to participating:
      • Scores are advisory – only one inspection!
      • Can participate in focus groups, listening sessions, conference calls and training sessions on policies and procedures
      • Your feedback will help HUD shape this new inspection model – Direct line to HUD!
      • Taking advantage of free training opportunities including how to use the inspection software.
    • Eligibility Criteria
      • Willing to annually inspect 100% of your units and submit electronically to HUD – will NOT be scored!
      • Willing to schedule a mutually agreed inspection date with the HUD inspector (not subject to 2-week rule under this Demo)
      • Your feedback will help HUD shape this new inspection model – Direct line to HUD!
      • Know that a QA could possibly visit for a reinspection if conditions warrant
      • If your most recent REAC was scored between 60-70, your property will be considered on a “case by case” basis.
      • Agree to participate in focus groups, listening sessions, conference calls and training sessions
  • HUD has recently posted 65 new Standards and is requesting feedback from you!
    • Linked here.
    • Many of these items aren’t even currently inspected (like Grab Bars)

Breaker Panels

In this August edition of our HUD-REAC newsletter, I’d like to discuss breaker panels!

    • A breaker shuts off a component (like a kitchen stove or outlets) – whereas a disconnect will shut off an area or system (like a service disconnect at the meter that shuts off the entire unit or an HVAC disconnect).
    • If the breaker panel is secured (locked, screwed shut) at the time of inspection – you MUST make the panel accessible to the inspector.
      1. The fact it’s secured is NOT a defect!
      2. If you refuse to open the panel, it can be recorded as Level 3 – Blocked Access
      3. Foreign materials (caulk, foam, screws) in the panel are a defect. The only acceptable materials allowed are UL rated such as blanks for breaker ports.

    • There are many defects that inspectors look for inside the breaker panels:
      1. Burnt Breakers
      2. Evidence of Leaks/Corrosion (Rust)
      3. Missing Breakers/Fuses
        • Use a blank to fill the gap or
        • A dummy breaker (not connected to anything)
      4. Missing Covers (internal cover….not the external cover) – wires have to be exposed as a result of the missing cover!
      5. Openings over ¼ inch (includes missing knockouts under or on the side of the panel)
        • ¼ inch is larger than you may think – stack 4 pennies and that is exactly ¼ inch.
        • Do NOT put the pennies in an electric panel!
    • If your breaker panel is abandoned, all capped wires (abandoned or otherwise), bare wires, un-insulated connectors, or open terminal connections visible in an open junction box/pass-through MUST be properly enclosed in a SECURED junction box