In the last week, the National Center for Housing Management has received a flood of questions looking for advice on how owners and managers should continue to meet their residents’ needs, maintain compliance with HUD regulations, and practice social distancing.
HUD is providing general guidance on its website (www.hud.gov/coronavirus). Additionally, HUD’s Office of Multifamily Housing Programs has created more specific guidance and compiled it into a document called Questions and Answers for Office of Multifamily Housing Stakeholders: Coronavirus (COVID-19). This document was released on March 13, 2020 and has already been updated once. The most recent version is found on the HUD Multifamily home page at https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/housing/mfh.
This document provides helpful information on topics such as Resident Health, Emergency Preparedness, MORS and REAC inspections and Operating Procedures. NCHM encourages you to review this document and monitor it regularly for updates as this situation is quite fluid.
The two most common questions that we are receiving are:
- Has HUD relaxed the Annual Recertification requirements due to federal and state COVID-19 guidance?
- When can residents ask for Interim Recertifications due to COVID-19 layoffs?
Let’s tackle these questions one at a time.
HUD regulations still require that recertifications be completed for all subsidized residents annually. HUD is encouraging us, however, to work with residents who are ill or prefer not to come to the office to complete necessary paperwork. Keep in mind that interviews can be held by phone, or documentation sent to the residents to complete. In addition, since the HUD Form 9887-A is valid for 15 months once it is signed, in most cases, you can use last year’s consent form to obtain verification information without obtaining a resident’s signature. If the resident is unavailable to sign a 50059, HUD allows us to enter an extenuating circumstance code in your TRACS software to document that the resident’s signature has not been obtained. HUD is recommending that you use “Extenuating Circumstances Code 10- Other” in this situation. Keep in mind, however, that the resident must sign the documentation when possible and a correction to the certification must be transmitted to TRACS.
Note: If you are sending/receiving sensitive personal information electronically, remember that we are bound by federal privacy laws. Please confer with your IT department before sending and receiving documents electronically to ensure your method is secure. Even if your method of transmitting is secure, the resident’s method of responding must also be secure.
When verifying income, assets, and deductions, remember, there are four different methods of verification that can be used, but they must be attempted in HUD’s order of acceptability: EIV, Third Party Written Verification, Third Party Oral Verification, and finally Family Certification. If you are unable to obtain Third-Party Written Verification, you must document your attempts in the resident file before attempting Third-Party Oral Verification. If that is unsuccessful, document the file and then you can use Family Certification. (4350.3 Par. 5-13)
We encourage O/As to be flexible with recertification processes during this pandemic while still meeting the regulatory requirements of the program.
The other question on the minds of many residents and staff is: has HUD relaxed the Interim Recertification rules? The quick and easy answer to that is no. The rules haven’t changed, but you may be seeing more residents qualifying for Interim Recertifications to reduce their rent due to a layoff or loss of job. Currently residents can report for an Interim Recertification if the decrease in income is going to reduce their rent by even one dollar. If a decrease in income is expected to last for less than one month, owners may refuse to process an Interim. If the decreases in income will be partially or fully restored within two months, owners can delay processing the interim until the new income is known, however, the owner may not charge a late fee or evict the resident while delaying the Interim. (4350.3 Par. 7-11D and F)
Since it is impossible to know how long the work stoppages will last at this point, and we are working with very vulnerable populations, NCHM encourages owners to establish Interim policies that meet HUD requirements but also give maximum flexibility to families who suddenly are left without employment income.