REAC inspectors are unqualified and unsupervised
REAC inspectors are unsupervised and unqualified to inspect HUD-assisted properties. That is what the General Accounting Office (GAO), a federal government watchdog agency, similar to the Office of Inspector General, discovered in a recent audit (click here for audit).
REAC inspector wannabees need 250 qualifying inspections to be eligible. REAC, however, does not verify the 250 before hiring. That is similar to a hospital letting a surgeon perform heart bypasses without verifying they actually did 250 unsupervised bypasses on humans.
REAC staff admitted that inspectors' qualifications fall below that required by their inspection standards. REAC officials told GAO that they had knowingly hired inspectors whose experience did not meet minimum standards.
For instance, hires included those that listed FEMA inspections and U.S. Army Office of Housing inspections as part of the 250 inspections. REAC told GAO these inspections do not qualify because they do not assess building systems, such as electrical or heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems.
Instead of verifying the 250 inspections, REAC relies on training to weed out unqualified candidates. As a result, REAC runs unqualified inspectors through its training program. Per GAO, knowingly training unqualified inspectors is wasting resources.
REAC inspectors told GAO that their supervisors, quality assurance (QA) inspectors, often have less experience than those being supervised. This experience gap negatively affects supervisors' ability to oversee the quality of inspectors' work. REAC officials told GAO they plan to make supervisors' training requirements more rigorous. It seems odd that GAO, a non-inspection agency, had to tell REAC to assure that supervisors were better trained than those they supervise.
Also, REAC does not require its instructors to have at least the same experience and knowledge level as their private-sector counterparts. InterNACHI, an international property inspection association, told GAO its instructors are certified master inspectors (CMI), have completed a minimum of 1,000 paid inspections or hours of education or some combination thereof, and have conducted inspections for a minimum of 3 years.
Further, REAC inspectors are not required to continue their education. In comparison, InterNACHI and ASHI require continuing education by their certified inspectors. ASHI requires inspectors to earn 20 continuing education credits annually. The qualifying training courses must be ASHI-approved, the inspector must submit a signed affidavit attesting to having attended the training, and ASHI spot checks to monitor compliance. InterNACHI requires inspectors to earn 24 continuing education credits annually and score 80 percent on the InterNACHI inspector examination every 3 years to remain certified.
The result of unqualified and unsupervised REAC inspectors is that the number of HUD-assisted properties receiving unfair and inaccurate inspection scores has increased. REAC told GAO the increase was due to an increase in the number of inexperienced inspectors. Incredibly, REAC had lowered the required number of inspections from 250 to 50 for awhile. REAC officials told GAO that these inspectors were less experienced and more likely to violate protocols.
It is unknown why did REAC lower the required number of inspections to 50 knowing that it would jeopardize the mission of assuring safe and decent housing. REAC should have adopted the qualifications standards set by InterNACHI and ASHI. Part of the problem is that the REAC director is a certified accountant, whereas certified inspectors direct the national inspection associations.
The result of hiring underqualified inspectors and not requiring continuing education on par with industry-standard training is unnecessary repairs, higher repair costs, and putting residents' lives in danger by not identifying life-threatening health and safety defects. Not that long ago the Southern Illinoisan newspaper did a series of articles on deplorable HUD-assisted REAC properties. They included reports of several people dying from Carbon Monoxide poisoning. REAC did not then and still does not inspect CO detectors. Ask any InterNACHI or ASHI inspector if they check CO detectors and you will get a resounding heck ya!
Hank Vanderbeek, CMI