REAC has issued a new document titled UPCS Guidance & Protocol Clarifications which is effective as of May 23, 2016. This document provides answers to a few frequently asked questions that have come to REAC from property reps, REAC consultants and even from REAC inspectors. We find that this document contains more good news than bad although it contains a few strange statements that will come as a surprise to most readers as they did to us.
The very worst news:
Inspectors are now instructed to cite a defect for breaker panels that have been caulked. Wherever owners and managers have instructed staff to caulk gaps in electrical panels, there is now a risk of being cited for a high-scoring Exposed Wires defect despite the presence of caulking to fill gaps. Part of your future REAC preparations might include going back to strip out caulking that staff has used to fill gaps in such panels.
Other bad news includes:
Damage to the exterior hood of a dryer vent or bathroom exhaust vent can be cited as Building Exterior; Walls; Damage as if the vent cover was part of the wall itself. A missing filter from the kitchen exhaust (whether or not it is operable) is to be cited as Kitchen; Range Hood/Exhaust; Excessive Grease/Inoperable; Level 3. These are all rather bizarre and unexpected turns on issues that have never been considered defects in the last 18 years.
Most of this new document otherwise either represents good news or neutral restatement of existing policies. One of the most significant items of good news is a new interpretation saying that vegetation touching a fence but not causing any damage is not to be cited as Overgrown/Penetrating Vegetation as it typically has been for many years.
Double cylinder deadbolts in Common Areas do not present an Emergency Exits Blocked/Unusable defect unless they impede the direct path of egress from one or more units.
Issues with bathroom sink stoppers are always Level 1 regardless of whether they involve removable stoppers or permanent mechanical stopper assemblies.
Property staff may turn on water valves that are turned off under sinks and toilets to demonstrate that these fixtures are operable and may turn on circuit breakers to demonstrate that various electrical devices are operable. Inspectors are not to prohibit staff from turning on water or power to demonstrate operation. Property staff may reset a tripped garbage disposal and may plug in AC units and/or other devices that are unplugged.
Aluminum foil on or inside a stove is NOT to be cited as Flammable Materials. A pizza box, plastic bag and/or other resident-owned items stored in an oven should be cited as Hazards/Other rather than Flammable Materials. (Hazards/Other is non-scoring – great news in our opinion.)
Kitchen sink sprayers are to be evaluated for leaks only and not to be cited for being inoperable or missing.
Inspectors will not cite bedbugs as Infestations, but rather as the non-scoring Hazards/Other.
The document also gives two photographic examples of conditions that are not to be cited as Erosion. This could have been the very best news in this new document by far if it had been clearly stated. Unfortunately, the statement on erosion is not nearly as clear or complete as it should be.
Many REAC inspectors have been overstating Erosion/Rutting issues since the beginning of the REAC inspection in 1998. The official Level 3 Erosion/Rutting definition requires that there be evidence of “extensively displaced soil” and “potential failure of adjoining structures.” This definition has been dumbed down for REAC inspectors by REAC’s trainers and QA Reps over the years to simply mean that there is evidence of undermining – that dirt has washed away leaving a structure unsupported.
This has led to situations where a property is cited for Level 3 Erosion because a tiny bit of mulch has been washed away at the corner of a prefabricated air conditioner pad, leaving a small gap, even though there is no extensive displacement of soil and no danger of damage. This defect, when cited as Level 3, can result in a scoring deduction as high as 7.5 points. We have long complained that this is ridiculous, and the photos in this new set of clarifications are directly out of a complaint that we submitted to REAC.
We firmly believe that REAC should have gone further in explaining when this defect is and is not to be cited, instead of simply presenting two photos and saying “this should not have been cited.” The photos by themselves do not make the purpose and meaning of this new clarification abundantly clear. It seems inevitable that this interpretation will be largely ignored because the advice given in the document is so vague and inconclusive.
Thanks for reading!