Housing Counseling: New Certification Requirements Final Rule

Overview of the Housing Counseling: New Certification Requirements Final Rule

HUD published the Final Rule for Housing Counseling Certification in the Federal Register on December 14, 2016. This rule implements statutory requirements that housing counseling required under or provided in connection with all HUD programs will be provided by HUD Certified Housing Counselors. With the new certification requirements, the benefits to the renter, the prospective homebuyer, or the existing homeowner are increased assurance of a more knowledgeable housing counselor providing more effective housing counseling services. HUD expects that more knowledgeable housing counselors will lead to better identification of housing issues, more knowledgeable referrals and resolution of barriers, and a greater ability to avoid scams. The rule provides guidance for agencies who are required to have housing counseling certified staff as well as new regulations prohibiting the distribution of HUD Housing Counseling Program grant funds to agencies convicted of election law violations or misusing those funds in a manner that constitutes a material violation of HUD requirements. Some of the requirements are in effect 30 days after the rule publication. Counselors have up to 36 months after the date that the HUD housing counselor certification examination becomes available, which was published in a separate Federal Register Notice to comply with the Certification requirement.

The following includes the key provisions of the Final Rule and the timing associated each provision:

  • Certification Requirement – Housing counseling required under or provided in connection with HUD programs must be provided only by certified housing counselors who work for organizations approved to participate in HUD’s Housing Counseling Program. In order to be certified, an individual must both pass a standardized written examination covering six major topic areas, and work for an agency approved to participate in HUD’s housing counseling program.

    Timing – Requirement in effect on August 1, 2020, which is 36 months after the date the certification examination becomes available.
     
  • Requirement for Agencies that Provide Homeownership Counseling – All agencies approved to participate in HUD’s housing counseling program that provide “homeownership counseling” shall address the entire process of homeownership as outlined in the Final Rule.

    Timing – Requirement in effect on January 13, 2017, which is 30 days after the date of publication of the Final Rule.
     
  • Requirement related to Distribution of Home Inspection Materials – As part of the homeownership counseling process, participating agencies shall provide clients with such materials as HUD may require regarding the availability and importance of obtaining an independent home inspection.

    Timing – Requirement in effect on January 13, 2017, which is 30 days after the date of publication of the Final Rule.
     
  • Agencies found to have Misused Housing Counseling Program Grant funds – This final rule requires an agency participating in HUD’s housing counseling program that has been found to have misused Housing Counseling Program grant funds in a way that constitutes a material violation to reimburse HUD for such misused amounts, return any unused or unobligated grant funds, and be prohibited from receiving housing counseling grant funds in the future.

    Timing – Requirement in effect on January 13, 2017, which is 30 days after the date of publication of the Final Rule.
     
  • Prohibition against Distribution of Funds to Organizations Convicted of Violating Election Laws – Prohibits the distribution of Comprehensive Housing Counseling or Housing Counseling Training grant funds to any agency participating in HUD’s housing counseling program that has been convicted of a violation under Federal law relating to an election for Federal office, or any agency participating in HUD’s housing counseling program that employs an individual who has been convicted for a violation under Federal law relating to an election of a Federal office.

    Timing – Requirement in effect on January 13, 2017 which is 30 days after the date of publication of the Final Rule.

Resource Updates

View resources related to the Final Rule on the right side of this page. Additionally, in the coming weeks and months, HUD will continue to provide guidance and additional resources to Housing Counseling program current and future participants on specific aspects of the new requirements. The additional resources include: notification of the final examination availability through publication of a separate Federal Register notice, webinars, self-paced online training, tools, outreach materials etc. Please sign up for the Housing Counseling Mailing List to be notified when each resource becomes available.

HUD Housing Counselors Training and Testing for Certification

This website is specifically designed for HUD-approved housing counseling agencies, offering free on-line training covering a broad range of topics including responsibilities of homeownership and tenancy; avoiding foreclosure and eviction; financial management; and fair housing. The training is designed to help prepare housing counselors for the upcoming, mandatory HUD certified counselor examination.

Access the training.

Submit Questions to the Office of Housing Counseling

If you have questions that are not addressed in our FAQs and need further information, please contact housing.counseling@hud.gov with questions. Please put in the Subject line “Housing Counseling Certification Rule” and, if applicable, the name of the HUD program you are inquiring about (e.g., Subject: Housing Counseling Certification Rule – ROSS).