What is the FHA Rule for Heating and Cooling Systems?

Confused about the FHA Rule for Heating and Cooling Systems?

FHA Requirements For Heating and CoolingI’ve received a lot of calls recently regarding the FHA rule for heating and cooling systems. You may have wondered what FHA heat source requirements are or what is considered a permanent heat source. Does FHA require central heat and air? Today we’re going to look at what the FHA Single Family Housing Policy Handbooks says about this often confusing topic.

FHA heating and cooling system requirements

During an appraisal observation (when the appraiser visits your home, also known as the appraisal inspection) the appraiser will check out the heating and cooling system. The FHA handbook has no specific requirements regarding air conditioning other than it must work if it is present. However, there are detailed guidelines for the heating system.

Generally speaking, a heating system must provide for healthful and comfortable living conditions regardless of what type of system it is or what type of fuel it uses. It must also meet the safety, soundness, and security rule for FHA properties.

The heat source must meet the following guidelines:

1) It must heat all living areas to a minimum of 50 degrees- The heating system must heat all living areas to a minimum of 50 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition, it must also heat all non-living areas where there are building components that are subject to freezing or that would not function due to the low temperature.

2) It must provide healthful and comfortable heat- While this is somewhat vague just keep in mind that you would not want the heat source or fuel to produce some foul odor or fumes that would be unhealthy to be around.

3) It must be safe to operate- The health of the occupant must not be put at risk to operate the heat source. In addition, the safety of the home must not be jeopardized since it is the collateral for the loan.

4) The fuel source must be readily obtainable- If the fuel source is difficult to obtain then it might become difficult to maintain healthful and comfortable living conditions for the occupants. This would no doubt affect the ability to maintain a temperature that would protect critical system components and prevent items such as pipes from freezing.

5) The heating system must be acceptable to the local market- This guideline helps the subject property main marketability in case it is foreclosed on and needs to be sold. If the heating system is uncommon for the area and has limited appeal it would be difficult to sell which is not what the bank wants.

6) The heating system must operate without human intervention- Again, being able to operate without human intervention helps to maintain a constant and steady temperature to ensure healthy and comfortable living as well as protection from freezing. Having a wood burning fireplace or wood stove as the only heat source would not meet this guideline because it would be necessary to monitor the fuel and temperature.

7) The heating system must be permanently installed- Any heat source that could be easily removed does not qualify for several reasons. If the heat source can be easily removed it would probably be considered personal property, which cannot be included in an appraisal. If it can be removed it could negatively impact the value of the property in many ways including potential damage to components due to low temperature.

After speaking with a representative with HUD in one of their Home Ownership Centers (HOC) they suggested several options. In-wall heating units or baseboard heating would qualify as an alternative to a central system. If you have any FHA questions I highly recommend calling the HOC at (800) 225-5342.

Is central air conditioning necessary to meet FHA requirements?

Central air conditioning is not necessary to meet FHA heating and cooling system guidelines. The only rule that HUD has regarding central air is that if the house has it, it must work. The appraiser is required to note what is wrong with it and how the condition affects the home’s value and marketability in addition to the cost to repair it.

Question
Do you have any other questions about FHA heating and cooling system requirements? If you have any questions feel free to contact me and as always thanks for reading.

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Comments

  1. Great post Tom. Thanks for putting this together in one readily digestible format. I hate hunting through the handbook for issues like this.

  2. Thank you Tom. In my market, we sometimes see a pellet stove on a thermostat as a home’s primary heat source. I think it meets all of the above if the home is quite small. What do you think?

    • That’s a good question, Gary. I’ve never really seen that type of stove in my area but from what I understand it does have a thermostat feature which can regulate the temperature. It looks like that the fuel that it burns (compressed wood) is fed into the unit through a storage bin. My only concern would be how frequently you would need to restock the fuel bin. Do you know how frequently this must occur?

      • Some of the pellet stoves I’ve seen have a hopper feed. Start the stove and pellets drop in for the next week or two. Others I’ve seen don’t have that hopper feed and probably don’t meet the requirements above.

  3. Thanks for the post Tom. So could a cabin in a more rural area with only a wood burning stove meet FHA financing? On one hand it would because of #5, but then #6 seems to be the trump card for ruling that out. What say you?

    • You’re right, Ryan. While a wood-burning fireplace would be common and acceptable to the market it does not meet the other guideline that states that it must operate without human intervention. The fireplace cannot be the only source of heat in this situation, however, it can be a secondary source. The main system would need to operate without human intervention.

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