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Annual inspections

Seattle Housing Authority inspects most subsidized units at least once a year to ensure compliance with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Housing Quality Standards.

Under some circumstances, some units may be inspected once every two years. The unit must pass the inspection for voucher assistance to continue.

If the unit fails inspection due to tenant-caused damage, the owner may require the tenant to pay for or repair the damage.

Owners will receive a written notice of the date and time of the annual inspection. Owners need not be present, but the tenant or a representative of the tenant who is at least 18 years old must be present.

If the owner does not maintain the unit in accordance with applicable laws and Housing Quality Standards, Seattle Housing Authority may withhold or terminate housing assistance payments to the owner. If tenants do not pay for or repair tenant-caused damage, Seattle Housing Authority may terminate their assistance.

Biennial inspections

Passing two consecutive yearly inspections the first time out qualifies a unit as an "Incentive Unit," which allows for a biennial inspection schedule.

 If a unit fails the next HQS inspection, the unit will no longer meet the criteria of passing two yearly inspections and will be placed on an annual inspection schedule.

Complaint inspections

If, at any time, the family or owner notifies SHA in writing that the unit does not meet Housing Quality Standards, SHA may conduct a complaint inspection.

If the family or landlord indicates items need repair, SHA will first contact the owner or tenant to assess whether they are aware of the repairs needed and if they have begun to address the repair issues. If they have not addressed the issue and/or if SHA determines that an inspection is warranted, one will be scheduled.

The complaint inspection process (below) will need to be followed:

• Contact the landlord or tenant, in writing, about repairs that need to be made.

• Send a copy of the letter to SHA.

• If no attempt has been made to make repairs after 10 days, contact SHA in writing about the lack of response.


Inspection requirements

General requirements

The unit must include a living room, kitchen, bathroom and one living/sleeping room for every two family members. In addition:

• Ceilings and walls must be in good condition, with no large cracks, holes, peeling or chipping paint or loose plaster.

• Floors must be in good condition. The floor covering must not be curling or have loose edges or holes.

• Windows, including sills, frames and sashes, must be in good operating condition and must open and close. There can be no broken, cracked or missing window panes. Windows must have permanently attached, adequate locks.

• All rooms must have either two working outlets or one working outlet and an overhead light or light fixture.

• 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.



• All stove burners must work. If the stove is equipped with a pilot light, the pilot light must light the burners.

• The oven must work and its door must close tightly. All parts must be functional, including the oven door seal gasket.

• The refrigerator door gasket must be attached to the door, forming a proper seal.

• The sink must have hot and cold running water and a drain with a trap. The sink must be properly hooked to a sewer line. Neither the faucet nor the sink can leak or drip.

• There must be adequate food preparation and storage areas, with adequate means to dispose of food wastes.



• There must be a private flush toilet fastened tightly to the floor.

• The bathroom sink must meet the same criteria as the kitchen sink.

• There must be a bathtub or shower.

• There must be adequate ventilation either from an operable window or an exhaust fan.

• There can be no rotten or weak areas in the floor, nor any water damage.


Bedrooms or sleeping rooms

Windows must open and be large enough to us as an emergency exit. There must be a door which can be closed.



There must be a heating system capable of heating the entire unit to a comfortable temperature. Furnaces must be serviced every two years and tested at the initial inspection.


Steps and porches

Porches, balconies, decks and similar structures more than 30 inches above the ground must have a railing 36 inches high. All inside and outside stairs must have a handrail and be structurally sound.


Site hazards

There can be no hazards on the site, such as dilapidated structures, trash, debris, unlicensed vehicles or non-maintained vegetation.



There must be no roaches or rodents.


Smoke detectors

Smoke detectors must work. Smoke detectors must be located outside each sleeping area and on each floor of the rental unit. Hearing impaired tenants require smoke detectors with lights. Laundry rooms require smoke detectors or heat detection devices.


Water heaters

Water heaters in units and laundry rooms must have a properly installed pressure relief valve and hot water-tolerant discharge line (no PVC). The discharge line must extend downward to within 6 inches of the floor or be routed to the exterior within 6 inches above the ground.


Garbage disposing

Each unit must have adequate garbage disposing and storage facilities.


Lead-based paint

Units built before 1978 may have lead-based paint. Such units occupied by children under the age of six and/or a pregnant household member cannot have any substantial chipping or peeling paint, either on the interior or the exterior.


Common causes of failed inspections

• Utilities are not turned on at the time of the inspection.

• Gas or oil furnaces are not operating at the time of the initial inspection.

• Appliances are not working properly or have missing parts.

• The only smoke detector on any given level of a unit is located in a kitchen.

• Smoke detectors are not located near sleeping areas, on all levels, or in a common laundry room.

• Smoke detectors are not working properly, for example, they are missing batteries or their batteries are low on power.

• Outlet or light switch cover plates are broken or missing.

• Junction boxes or electrical panels are open, exposing wires and wire connections.

• Hot water tanks do not have a pressure/temperature relief valve and discharge line.

• Plumbing fixtures leak or drains are plugged.

• Window panes are broken or windows do not have locks.

• All the windows in any bedroom have non-releasing type security bars installed.

• Stairs with four or more steps do not have a railing. This rule applies to both the interior and exterior of the unit.

• Exterior doors have double-keyed deadbolts.

• Deteriorated paint is present on any surface of the interior or exterior of buildings, fences, concrete surfaces or other structures on the property. This rule applies to buildings built before 1978 that are occupied by children under the age of six or by a pregnant tenant.