On November 12, 2020, HUD published a notice titled “Remote Video Inspections for Housing Choice Voucher Program” (PIH Notice 2020-31). The notice gives PHAs guidance for doing Housing Quality Standards (HQS) inspections using Remote Video Inspections (RVIs), i.e., the process by which an inspector performs a HQS inspection at a remote site using a proxy (who follows the inspector’s instructions) and streaming technology.
Four Phases of an RVI
The guidance divides RVIs into four phases: administrative preparation; pre-inspection planning; performance of the inspection; and post inspection. In the administrative preparation phase, PHAs should check whether they need to update their administrative plan before incorporating new technology into their HQS inspections. The Department recommends describing who can participate in an RVI and the back-up process, if an RVI is unable to be completed. Additionally, PHAs should determine if the use of technology as part of the inspection process constitutes a significant amendment to the Annual Plan.
There are certain things PHA should do in the pre-inspection planning phase. First, the PHA should consider whether the proxy performing the RVI has the necessary equipment. If she does not, the PHA should consider how it will be provided. The Department recommends having the following items: a tape measure; a flashlight; a circuit analyzer, a way to test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors; a thermometer; and a smart phone or a tablet that meets certain streaming requirements. The RVIs should be scheduled like any other HQS inspection, but the PHA should also explain what RVIs are, why they’re being implemented, and provide a contact number and email address for tenants to raise questions or concerns. Finally, the inspector and the designated proxy should complete the free online course titled “Lead based Paint Visual Assessment Training Course” for properties built before 1978 where a child under six resides or will reside.
Certain steps should be taken, while performing the inspection. First, there should be adequate safeguards for the protection of personally identifiable information. The inspector may want to be in a PHA office or other remote location, while also using equipment that protects other private information. A proxy should be chosen for the inspection. The proxy may be the landlord, property representative, tenant, or any adult associated with the tenancy. Finally, once using a streaming platform to contact the proxy, the inspector should use the same inspection form the PHA currently uses to record deficiencies or if using a handheld device, use a consistent conversion process.
In the post-inspection time period, whether a unit passes or fails, the PHA should follow its administrative plan and procedures for that outcome.
The notice provides several best practices. First, the inspector should verify on the screen that the unit scheduled is being inspected by confirming the address and street name outside the unit. Second, the inspector should inspect the exterior of the unit and adjoining properties. Third, the inspector should inspect all interior spaces. Fourth, for a pre-1978 property, the inspector should follow all the national and state lead-based paint requirements. Fifth, the inspector should complete the process of generating a notification letter to the landlord or tenant to report inspection results. Finally, the appropriate individual should schedule a re-inspection or clearance test, if needed.
Prior to the RVI, the PHA and “impacted party with legal possession of the unit” (i.e., the tenant or the landlord) should agree to the use of the RVI. The PHA should notify the proxy in advance that the RVI will involve: determining no smell of natural gas, methane, or other noxious gas; completion of the “Lead based Paint Visual Assessment Training Course”; streaming the RVI without recording it; following the directions of the instructor; and other things deemed necessary by the PHA.
Finally, PHAs are encouraged to perform additional quality control inspections under the RVI process.
The full notice can be read here.