The goal of the Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCV) is to provide “decent, safe, and sanitary” housing at an affordable cost to low-income families. To accomplish this, program regulations set forth basic Housing Quality Standards (HQS) which all units must meet before assistance can be paid on behalf of a family and at least annually or biennially throughout the term of the assisted tenancy. HQS defines “standard housing” and establishes the minimum criteria necessary for the health and safety of program participants.

Beginning October 1, 2024: NSPIRE inspections protocol replaces HQS as Housing Choice Voucher inspection of record

The Department of Housing and Urban Development has been working with agencies to pilot test the next version of their physical inspections protocol, NSPIRE. What started out for Voucher programs as UPCS-V has evolved into this new inspection format: the National Standard for the Physical Inspections of Real Estate or NSPIRE. This protocol will be applied to ALL HUD-funded housing, including Low Rent Public Housing, Housing Choice Voucher program units and multifamily subsidies. Overall, the new protocol is designed to focus on resident safety in subsidized housing units and the pass/fail protocol codified in the Federal Registrar will still apply to HCVP unit inventories.

Learn more about NSPIRE

View NSPIRE Checklist

View NSPIRE Inspector Training

The 13 key aspects of housing quality covered by the HQS include:

  • Sanitary facilities
  • Interior air quality
  • Food preparation and refuse disposal
  • Water supply
  • Space and security
  • Lead-based paint
  • Thermal environment
  • Access
  • Illumination and electricity
  • Site and neighborhood
  • Structure and materials
  • Sanitary conditions
  • Smoke detectors
  • Carbon monoxide detectors
HUD approved acceptability requirements for units:

  • Units with windows that are designed to be open must be operable and must have screens and storms on all exterior windows of the unit, unless the unit is in a building that has a total HVAC system and does not require windows that can be opened for fresh air.
  • If a clothes dryer is present in a dwelling unit, the dryer must be vented to the outside of the unit.
  • Dwelling units must have downspouts.
  • The dwelling unit must have storm doors on exterior entrance doors to the unit. Exceptions may be made for multi-family units and historical preservation.
  • Sanitary/Lavatory facilities must be in a separate, private room; must have a toilet and a fixed wash basin, both in working condition; must have a shower or tub and cold and hot running water; must utilize a public or private disposal system.; must have a means of ventilation; and must be located such that access does not have to be solely through a bedroom.
  • Exterior doors must be lockable with a turn style deadbolt on the inside.
How are Housing Quality Standards Enforced?

CMHA’s HQS inspections are conducted by an outside firm who ensures that potential and current HCV housing units meet the minimum performance and acceptability criteria for each of the 13 key housing quality aspects. Click to review basic HQS requirements.
Types of HQS InspectionsInitial Inspection

CMHA’s tenancy approval process triggers an initial inspection.  Participants and owners complete a Request For Tenancy Approval packet and submit to cmha via email at A thorough unit inspection will be done to determine compliance with HQS.

Annual Inspection

CMHA’s annual inspection process includes scheduling the unit for inspection within twelve months of the previous inspection. The unit must comply with HQS requirements throughout the assisted tenancy. CMHA is looking to transition to biennial inspections (more information will follow when implemented).

Emergency Inspection

An emergency inspection can occur as a result of an annual inspection or special inspection. An emergency violation must be corrected within 24 hours of the inspection. Three consecutive inspections will occur, if by the second inspection the violation is not corrected, the HAP will abate on the first of the month following the failure to comply. If the violation is not corrected by the third inspection, the contract will cancel. The following violations will require correction within 24 hours:

  • A smoke or carbon monoxide detector that is missing or inoperable
  • Kitchen range burners that do not ignite when the control knobs are turned to the light position without the use of an outside fire source
  • A hazardous gas hook-up for a kitchen range, as evidenced by a strong smell of gas
  • No water
  • No electricity
  • No heat (during the timeframe of October 15th to April 15th)
  • Sewer back-up
  • Gas leak
  • Security issues (unlockable windows at a height within six feet of ground level and/or unit entry doors with missing or broken locks)
  • Anything deemed life-threatening    
Special Inspection

Special inspections are in response to complaints registered with the PHA by families, owners, or other sources regarding the unit’s condition, quality control inspections or any other inspection the PHA may deem appropriate to conduct.


CMHA will abate HAP Payments to owners who do not comply with notifications to correct HQS deficiencies within the specified timeframe. 24 hours or 30 days depending on the nature of the deficiency. For valid reasons, CMHA may extend the timeframe. Placement of the abatement must occur by the first of the month following the expiration of the notice. If payments are abated, the family is still responsible for providing their share of the rent; however, CMHA will not make their payment until the deficiencies have been corrected. There will be no retroactive payments made during that period.  If the unit is abated for more than 30 days, the HAP contract may be cancelled.
New* Carbon Monoxide Detector Requirement Lead Safety The Department of Housing and Urban Development is requiring that all units served by the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority have carbon monoxide detectors installed, in accordance with the International Fire Code, no later than December 27, 2022. As of December 27, 2022, lack of carbon monoxide detector(s) will be considered an emergency fail subject to correction within 24 hours.

Carbon monoxide detectors are required when: 

  • A unit has any gas fueled appliance (i.e. stove, heater, hot water heater)
  • A unit has an attached garage
  • A unit has a wood burning fireplace
  • Where required, carbon monoxide detectors should be placed in the following areas:
  • On each floor of the unit, including furnished basements, where applicable
  • Not required in unfinished attic spaces
If you have any questions, please contact us at, or at 216.478.9680.

EPA Lead Law and HCVP

Effective May 1, 2010, owners of properties built before January 1, 1978 that are cited for chipping, cracking, and peeling paint and that have a child under 6 years old that is residing or will reside in the unit must meet the following requirements prior to passing the HQS Inspection:

  • The owner has up to 30 days from the annual inspection and 10 days from the initial move-in inspection to provide a "passed" lead clearance test and proof the repairs were completed by a certified lead abatement contractor. 
  • All other HQS violations must also be rectified.
Lead Safety Links: