October 2018, Volume 7 Issue 04

The Importance of Timely and Accurate Data in the Housing Counseling System

Having complete and accurate data for participating agencies in HUD’s Housing Counseling Program is critical to manage the program and effectively share trends with all of HUD’s departments and business partners. The data in the HCS must therefore be checked and verified periodically.

How Often Should I Validate Agency Data in HCS?
We all recognize the importance of having complete and accurate data. Agencies must understand that the data in HCS is their responsibility. To help confirm that agencies are complying with this requirement, HCS has validation check boxes on each page of the agency’s profile as a convenience to allow quick and easy marking.

At a minimum, agencies must validate their information every 90 days. It is assumed that all agencies must work in HCS quarterly, if for no other reason than to submit their HUD-9902 Performance Reports. Given this requirement, it is therefore likely that they have this minimum opportunity to validate their profiles quarterly.

Why Are Validation Boxes On Each Profile Page?
Each page in an agency’s profile in HCS provides the means to validate the data. A validation box is displayed on top of each page for quick and convenient access. Although there are validation boxes on every page, this does not mean that each page must be validated. They are posted merely for visibility and accessibility, so that everyone is reminded of the necessity of validating the data. If a page does need validation, agencies should mark the box every time they are in HCS.

How Do I Check My Agency’s Validation Status? The Summary Page for each agency in HCS displays the validation status. It quickly determines the last time the profile was validated and the date of the next deadline. There are search criteria available in the Advance Agency search feature to extract specific validation information.

Is It Important to Validate Contact Information?
All information in the profile is important and must be complete and accurate. Because we need to be in constant contact with each agency and share the contact information with the public, it is particularly important that the contact information be validated. The Agency Contact email is particularly important as this is the HUD’s link to conduct bulk messaging with announcements and guidance for agencies. Effective October 1, 2018, the Office of Housing Counseling will only provide information to FHA Connection users and application coordinators via email. The FHA Connection System is critical to the process of certifying housing counselors.

All contact information on the Personnel Tab in HUD’s HCS must be accurate and all fields completely filled in. It is important that the email addresses be
filled in with the current email address of the Agency Manager, Agency Senior Executive, and the Agency Contact for HUD. Missing email information in your agency profile will delay the housing counselor certification process for your counselors. Agencies should review all agency personnel information in the HCS to ensure their agency’s email addresses are up to date. Instructions on updating information in HCS can be found on HUD Exchange.

Additionally, please review and update your agency’s profile in your CMS. Your profile could overwrite your agency information in HCS and should also be updated with your agency’s current email addresses. You should contact your agency’s HUD Point of Contact (POC) for assistance with your agency’s HCS profile, if you need assistance. You can also email housing.counseling@hud.gov for help.

Below are some frequently asked questions related to updating information in HCS.

Q: Does an agency status change from ‘inactive’ to ‘terminated’ automatically in the HCS?

Agency status must be updated to ‘active’ by an Office of Housing Counseling staff member within 45 days after becoming ‘inactive,’ or the system will then automatically ‘terminate’ the agency. If an agency is ‘terminated,’ it will be unable to log in to HCS and cannot submit a HUD-9902 form. Agencies should contact their HUD POC to address any issues that resulted in the agency being placed in ‘inactive’ status, or to correct an agency status believed to be erroneous.

Q: Last quarter, I manually entered my agency contact, personnel, and counseling method information into the HCS. However, when I logged back into HCS the following quarter to validate my agency profile, and check my agency's HUD-9902 submissions, the agency profile, counseling methods, and counselor data no longer reflected what I previously entered. Why did my agency’s information change?

Any data entered manually into HCS will be overwritten if a submission is received via a HUD-compliant CMS. This includes agency profile information.

Most CMSs allow agencies to automatically submit the Agency Profile, Types of Counseling Method, Counselor Profile, HUD-9902 form, and Client Profile data from their CMS to HCS. As a result, when the CMS system connects with HCS, those fields will automatically update based on the information available in the agency’s CMS. Blank fields in an agency’s CMS profile will overwrite existing information in HCS. This will affect the agency’s listing on HUD’s website, and clients may not see the agency’s contact information or full range of service offered.

Agencies should not be using a combination of manual entry and automated CMS data submission, and should assure that their CMS profiles are up-to-date, with accurate Agency Profile and Counselor Profile information. This will allow for the most accurate and consistent data in HCS.

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