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The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Office of Inspector General, audited HUD’s Office of Multifamily Housing Programs’ health and safety complaint process.  We conducted this audit due to a July 2019 explosion that occurred at the Calloway Cove Apartments, a Multifamily housing property in Jacksonville, FL, which resulted in a fire that injured several people.  HUD’s Real Estate Assessment Center had identified life-threatening health and safety deficiencies at the property for several years, and there had been separate concerns related to health and safety issues at this complex, which appear to have gone unaddressed and may have led to the fire.  Our audit objective was to determine whether HUD ensured that health and safety complaints associated with Multifamily Section 8-assisted housing were resolved in a timely manner.

HUD’s complaint process did not ensure that health and safety complaints were resolved in a timely manner.  On average, it took 2.5 days to resolve the life-threatening health and safety issues reviewed, including 3 days to resolve a gas leak issue.  It took an average of 17 days to resolve the non-life-threatening health and safety issues, including 175 days to resolve an infestation problem.  For the purpose of this audit, we determined reasonable benchmark resolution times to be 24 hours for resolving life-threatening health and safety issues and 72 hours for non-life-threatening health and safety issues.  This condition occurred because HUD did not have a standardized, effective process for monitoring, tracking, and resolving complaints in a timely manner.  As a result, Multifamily housing tenants were, in some instances, faced with unhealthy and dangerous living environments for extended periods.

We recommend that the Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Multifamily Housing Programs (1) develop a comprehensive process to ensure that complaints received by the Multifamily Housing Clearinghouse are resolved in a timely manner; (2) develop agencywide policies and procedures for the intake, monitoring, and tracking of health and safety complaints; (3) develop an automated real-time system for receiving, tracking, and resolving health and safety issues; and (4) revise the annual contributions contract to more clearly define contractor and property management responsibilities and deadlines for resolving health and safety issues.