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Housing Quality Standards

What Are Housing Quality Standards?

All rental units subsidized under the Section 8 Program must meet Housing Quality Standards (HQS). HQS is a comprehensive program established by HUD to ensure that the housing it subsidizes remains decent, safe, and sanitary.
The following summary of Housing Quality Standards is intended to help owners prepare rental units for HQS inspections, and is not intended to cover every aspect of the HQS regulations.

General Requirements
Units must include a living room, kitchen, bathroom, and one living/sleeping room for every two family members.
Various types of housing are acceptable, such as single family homes, duplexes, tri-plexes, quads, and multi-floor apartment complexes. Mobile homes are acceptable. Efficiency apartments are acceptable for use by one or two people.

Ceilings and walls must be in good condition, with no large cracks, holes, or loose plaster. There should be no evidence of water stains which would indicate leaks.

Floors must be in sound condition with no rotten or weak areas. The floor covering must not be curling or have loose edges, holes, cracked areas, or frayed sections that create a trip hazard.

Windows, including sills, frames, and sashes; must be in good operating condition and must open and close. Double hung windows are considered deteriorated if they have to be propped open to keep the sash up.

Living rooms must have a window, but it does not have to open.
There can be no broken, cracked, or missing panes. Windows must have permanently attached, adequate locks.

Wiring: All sleeping rooms, and the living room must have either two working outlets; or one working outlet and a permanent light fixture. Other rooms must have a means of natural or artificial illumination.

All outlets, switches, and electrical boxes must have covers with no exposed or fraying wires. All electrical splices must be properly contained in junction boxes with covers. Outlet covers cannot be cracked or broken.

Paint: units built before 1978 may have lead-based paint. Such units occupied by children under the age of six or with pregnant mother cannot have cracking, scaling, chipping, chalking, or peeling paint, either on the interior or the exterior. See Lead Paint in Section 8 Housing for more information.

Kitchen Stove or Range with Oven.
All burners must work. If equipped with a pilot light, the pilot light must light the burners. The oven must work and its door must close tightly. All control knobs must be present and work. (Note: Stove or range can be supplied either by the tenant or the landlord.)

Refrigerator. The door gasket must be attached to the door, forming a proper seal. The refrigerator must maintain a temperature low enough to keep food from spoiling over a reasonable period of time. (Note: The refrigerator can be supplied either by the tenant or the landlord.)

Kitchen Sink. Must have hot and cold running water, a drain with trap, and be properly hooked to a sewer line. A sink in a bathroom does not satisfy the kitchen requirement.

Food prep: There must be adequate food preparation and storage areas.

Bathroom Toilet. There must be a private flush toilet available for the exclusive use of the occupants of the unit. It must be connected to a water supply and be fastened tightly to the floor.

Bathroom Sink. See Kitchen. A sink in a kitchen does not satisfy the bathroom requirement.

Tub or Shower. There must be a bathtub or shower.

Bathroom Ventilation. There must be adequate ventilation either from an openable window or an exhaust fan. Exhaust vents must be vented to the outside, attic, or crawlspace. (Note: the space above a suspended ceiling is not considered a crawlspace)

Bedrooms Windows: Must have an window that opens and is large enough to use as an emergency exit.

Heating : There must be a heating system capable of adequately heating all living areas in the unit. Portable electrical or kerosene heaters are not an acceptable heating system.

Steps and Porches : Porches, balconies, decks, etc., that are 30 inches, or higher, above the ground must have a railing 36 inches high. All inside and outside stairs with 3 or more steps must have a handrail, and be structurally sound.

Site Hazards : There can be no hazards on the site, such as dilapidated structures, trash, or debris.

There must be no roaches or rodents.

Smoke Detectors : must work, be located outside each sleeping area, at least one on each floor of the rental unit. Hearing impaired tenants require smoke alarms with a detector outside the bedroom, and a specially designed alarm (usually very loud and with a bright strobing light) inside the bedroom. Laundry rooms require smoke detectors.

Water Heaters : must have a properly installed pressure relief valve. The discharge line must extend downward to within 18-24 inches from the floor if not routed outside.

Garbage Disposing : Each unit must have adequate garbage disposing and storage facilities.

Most Common Causes of Failed Inspections

  • Broken or cracked windows
  • Windows that won’t stay open and have to be propped up
  • Inadequate bathroom ventilation; must be openable window OR exhaust fan
  • No handrails on three or more steps
  • No guard rails on drop-off’s exceeding 30 inches in height
  • No pressure relief valve and discharge line on water heater
  • Missing smoke detectors, or detectors with missing or dead batteries
  • Loose edges on carpeting or vinyl, which causes a trip hazard
  • Leaking faucets or plumbing
  • Inoperable stove ovens, burners, or ventilating hoods.