U.S. Code of Federal Regulations

Regulations most recently checked for updates: Oct 01, 2022

§ 15.106 - Fees.

(a) In general. HUD will charge for processing requests under the FOIA in accordance with paragraph (c) of this section, except where fees are limited under paragraph (d) of this section or where a waiver or reduction of fees is granted under paragraph (k) of this section. HUD shall collect all applicable fees before sending copies of requested records to a requester. In order to resolve any fee issues that arise under this section, HUD may contact a requester for additional information. Requesters shall pay fees by check or money order made payable to the United States Treasury.

(b) Definitions. For purposes of this section:

Commercial use means a request from or on behalf of a person who seeks information for a use or purpose that furthers his or her commercial, trade, or profit interests, which can include furthering those interests through litigation. HUD shall determine, whenever reasonably possible, the use to which a requester will put the requested records. When it appears that the requester will put the records to a commercial use, either because of the nature of the request itself or because HUD has reasonable cause to doubt a requester's stated use, HUD shall provide the requester a reasonable opportunity to submit further clarification.

Direct costs means those expenses that HUD actually incurs in searching for and duplicating and, in the case of commercial use requests, reviewing records to respond to a FOIA request. Direct costs include, for example, the salary of the employee performing the work and the cost of operating computers and other electronic equipment, such as for mainframe computer run time. Not included in direct costs are overhead expenses such as the costs of space and heating or lighting a facility.

Duplication means the process of making a copy of a document necessary to respond to a FOIA request. Such copies can take the form of paper copy, audiovisual materials, or machine readable documentation (e.g., diskette), among others. HUD shall honor a requester's specified preference of form or format of disclosure if the record is readily reproducible with reasonable efforts in the requested form or format by the office responding to the request.

Educational institution means:

(i)(A) A preschool;

(B) A public or private elementary or secondary school;

(C) An institution of graduate higher education;

(D) An institution of undergraduate higher education;

(E) An institution of professional education; or

(F) An institution of vocational education, that primarily (or solely) operates a program or programs of scholarly research.

(ii) To be in this category, a requester should show that the request is authorized by, and is made under the auspices of, a qualifying institution and that the records are not sought for a commercial use but are sought to further scholarly research. Records requested for the intention of fulfilling credit requirements are not considered to be sought for a scholarly purpose.

Other requester means any requester that does not fall within the categories of requesters described in this section.

Noncommercial scientific institution means an institution that is not operated on a “commercial” basis, as defined in this section, and that is operated solely for the purpose of conducting scientific research the results of which are not intended to promote any particular product or industry. To be in this category, a requester should show that the request is authorized by, and is made under the auspices of, a qualifying institution and that the records are not sought for a commercial use but are sought to further scientific research.

Representative of the news media, or news media requester, means any person actively gathering news for an entity that is organized and operated to publish or broadcast news to the public, uses its editorial skills to turn the raw materials into a distinct work, and distributes that work to an audience. The term news means information that is about current events or that would be of current interest to the public. Examples of news media entities include television or radio stations broadcasting to the public at large and publishers of periodicals that disseminate news and make their products available to the general public through a variety of means. For freelance journalists to be regarded as working for a news media entity, they should demonstrate a solid basis for expecting publication through a news media entity. A publication contract would be the clearest proof, but HUD will also look to the past publication record of a requester in making this determination. To be in this category a requester should not be seeking the requested records for a commercial use. However, a request for records supporting the news dissemination function of the requester shall not be considered to be for a commercial use.

(c) Fees - (1) Schedule. In responding to FOIA requests, HUD will use the fee schedule set out in the following table, unless a waiver or reduction of fees has been granted under paragraph (k) of this section.

FOIA Fee Schedule

Activity Rate Commercial use requester News media, educational institution, or
noncommercial scientific
institution requester
Other requester
(i) Professional search$13 per quarter hourAppliesDoes not applyApplies. No charge for first 2 hours of cumulative search time.
(ii) Professional review$13 per quarter hourAppliesDoes not applyDoes not apply.
(iii) Clerical search$6 per quarter hourAppliesDoes not applyApplies. No charge for first 2 hours of cumulative search time.
(iv) Clerical review$6 per quarter hourAppliesDoes not applyDoes not apply.
(v) Programming services requiredDirect costs associated with searchAppliesDoes not applyApplies.
(vi) Duplication costs$0.10 per pageAppliesApplies. No charge for first 100 pagesApplies. No charge for first 100 pages.
(vii) Duplication costs - tape, CD ROM or disketteActual costAppliesAppliesApplies.

(2) Search. (i) Search fees will be charged for all requests other than requests made by educational institutions, noncommercial scientific institutions, or representatives of the news media, subject to the limitations of paragraph (d) of this section. HUD may charge for time spent searching even if HUD does not locate any responsive record or if HUD withholds the record(s) located as entirely exempt from disclosure.

(ii) For each hour spent by personnel searching for requested records, including electronic searches that do not require new programming, the fees will be $13 per quarter hour for professional personnel and $6 per quarter hour for clerical personnel.

(iii) Requesters will be charged the direct costs associated with conducting any search that requires the creation of a new program to locate the requested records.

(iv) For requests requiring the retrieval of records from any Federal records center, certain additional costs may be incurred in accordance with the Transactional Billing Rate Schedule established by the National Archives and Records Administration.

(3) Duplication. Duplication fees will be charged to all requesters, subject to the limitations of paragraph (d) of this section. For a paper photocopy of a record (no more than one copy of which need be supplied), the fee will be $0.10 per page. For copies in digital format, HUD will charge the direct costs, including operator time, of producing the copy. Where paper documents must be scanned in order to comply with a requester's preference to receive the records in an electronic format, the requester shall pay the direct costs associated with scanning those materials. For other forms of duplication, HUD will charge the direct costs.

(4) Review. Review fees will be charged to requesters who make a commercial use request. Review fees will be charged only for the initial record review (the review done where HUD determines whether an exemption applies to a particular record or record portion, at the initial request level). No charge will be made for review at the administrative appeal level for an exemption already applied. However, records or portions of records withheld under an exemption that is subsequently determined not to apply may be reviewed again to determine whether any other exemption not previously considered applies. The cost of that review is chargeable where it is made necessary by such a change of circumstances. Fees for the review time will be $13 per quarter hour for professional personnel and $6 per quarter hour for clerical personnel.

(d) Restrictions on charging fees. (1) No search fee will be charged for requests by educational institutions, noncommercial scientific institutions, or representatives of the news media. In addition, except as provided in paragraphs (d)(5), (d)(6), and (d)(7) of this section, HUD shall not assess any search fees (or, for requesters that are educational institutions, noncommercial scientific institutions or representatives of the news media requesting records not sought for commercial use, duplication fees) if HUD has failed to comply with any time limit described in § 15.103.

(2) Search and review fees will be charged in quarter-hour increments. HUD will round up a quarter hour when professional and clerical search and review time exceeds a quarter-hour increment.

(3) Except for requesters seeking records for a commercial use, HUD will provide without charge:

(i) The first 100 pages of duplication (or the cost equivalent); and

(ii) The first 2 hours of search (or the cost equivalent).

(4) No fee will be charged whenever a total fee calculated under paragraph (c) of this section is less than HUD's cost to process the payment. Currently, whenever a total fee calculated is $25 or less, no fee will be charged.

(5) If HUD determines that unusual circumstances apply and HUD provides timely written notice to the requester pursuant to requirements provided in § 15.103(c), a failure to comply with any time limit as described in § 15.103 is excused for an additional 10 days. If HUD fails to comply with the extended time limit, HUD may not assess any search fees (or for requesters that are educational or noncommercial scientific institutions or representatives of the news media requesting records not sought for commercial use, duplication fees).

(6) If unusual circumstances apply and more than 5000 pages are necessary to respond to the request, HUD may charge search fees or, for requesters that are educational or noncommercial scientific institutions or representatives of the news media requesting records not sought for commercial use, duplication fees, if timely written notice has been made to the requester pursuant to requirements provided in § 15.103(c) and HUD has discussed with the requester through written mail, electronic mail, or telephone (or made not less than 3 good-faith attempts to do so) how the requester could effectively limit the scope of the request as stipulated in § 15.103(c).

(7)(i) If a court has determined that exceptional circumstances exist, a failure to comply with any time limit as described in § 15.103 shall be excused for the length of time provided by the court order.

(ii) For purposes of this section, the term “exceptional circumstances” does not include a delay that results from a predictable workload of requests, unless HUD demonstrates reasonable progress in reducing its backlog of pending requests. However, refusal by the requester to reasonably modify the scope of a request or arrange an alternative time frame for processing a request (or a modified request) after HUD gives them an opportunity to do so shall be considered a factor in determining whether exceptional circumstances exist.

(e) Notice of anticipated fees in excess of $25. When HUD determines or estimates that the fees to be charged under this section will amount to more than $25, HUD will notify the requester of the actual or estimated amount of the fees, unless the requester has indicated a willingness to pay fees as high as the amount anticipated. If only a portion of the fee can be readily estimated, HUD shall advise the requester that the estimated fee may be only a portion of the total fee. In cases in which a requester has been notified that actual or estimated fees amount to more than $25, the request will be held in abeyance for 15 working days. Further work will not be done on that request until the requester has either made a firm commitment to pay the anticipated total fee, or has made payment in advance if the total fee exceeds $250. Any such agreement should be memorialized by the requester in writing, should indicate a given dollar amount, and should be received by HUD within the time period specified by HUD in its notice to the requester. If the requester does not provide a firm commitment to pay the anticipated fee within the time period specified by HUD, the request will be closed. A notice under this paragraph will offer the requester an opportunity to discuss the matter of fees with HUD personnel in order to reformulate the request to meet the requester's needs at a lower cost. HUD is not required to accept payments in installments.

(f) Charges for other services. Although not required to provide special services, if HUD chooses to do so as a matter of administrative discretion, HUD will charge the direct costs of providing these services. Examples of such services include certifying that records are true copies, providing multiple copies of the same document, or sending documents by means other than ordinary mail.

(g) Charging interest. HUD may charge interest on any unpaid bill starting on the 31st day following the date of billing the requester. Interest charges will be assessed at the rate provided in 31 U.S.C. 3717 and will accrue from the date of the billing until payment is received by HUD. HUD will follow the provisions of the Debt Collection Act of 1982 (Pub. L. 97-365, 96 Stat. 1749), as amended, and its administrative procedures, including the use of consumer reporting agencies, collection agencies, and offset.

(h) Aggregating requests. If HUD reasonably believes that a requester or a group of requesters acting together is attempting to divide a request into a series of requests for the purpose of avoiding fees, HUD may aggregate those requests and charge accordingly. HUD may presume that multiple requests of this type made within a 30-day period have been made in order to avoid fees. Where requests are separated by a longer period, HUD will aggregate them only where there is a reasonable basis for determining that aggregation is warranted under all the circumstances involved. Multiple requests involving unrelated matters will not be aggregated. Aggregation of requests for fee purposes under this paragraph will be conducted independent of aggregation of requests under § 15.103(d).

(i) Advance payments. (1) For requests other than those described in paragraphs (i)(2) and (3) of this section, HUD will not require the requester to make an advance payment before work is begun or continued on a request. Payment owed for work already completed, such as prepayment before copies are sent to a requester, is not an advance payment.

(2) If HUD determines or estimates that a total fee to be charged under this section will be more than $250, it may require the requester to make an advance payment of an amount up to the amount of the entire anticipated fee before beginning to process the request, except where it receives a satisfactory assurance of full payment from a requester who has a history of prompt payment.

(3) If a requester has previously failed to pay a properly charged FOIA fee to HUD within 30 days of the date of billing, before HUD begins to process a new request or continues to process a pending request from that requester, HUD will require the requester to pay the full amount due, plus any applicable interest, and to make an advance payment of the full amount of any anticipated fee. If HUD has a reasonable basis to believe that a requester has misrepresented his or her identity in order to avoid paying outstanding fees, HUD may require that the requester provide proof of identity.

(4) When HUD requires advance payment, the request will be held in abeyance for 15 working days to allow the requester an opportunity to make payment in advance and/or modify the scope of the request. If the requester does not pay the advance payment or modify the scope of the request within the allotted time frame, the request will be closed.

(j) Other statutes specifically providing for fees. The fee schedule in this section does not apply to fees charged under any statute that specifically requires an agency to set and collect fees for particular types of records. Where records responsive to requests are maintained for distribution by agencies operating such statutorily based fee schedule programs, HUD will inform requesters of the contact information for that source.

(k) Requirements for waiver or reduction of fees. (1) Records responsive to a request will be furnished without charge or at a charge reduced below that established under paragraph (c) of this section if HUD determines, based on all available information, that the requester has demonstrated the following:

(i) Disclosure of the requested information is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government; and

(ii) Disclosure of the information is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester.

(2) To determine whether the first fee waiver requirement is met, HUD will consider the following factors:

(i) The subject of the requested records should concern identifiable operations or activities of the Federal Government, with a connection that is direct and clear, not remote or attenuated.

(ii) The disclosable portions of the requested records should be meaningfully informative about government operations or activities and “likely to contribute” to an increased public understanding of those operations or activities. The disclosure of information that already is in the public domain, in either a duplicative or a substantially identical form, would not be as likely to contribute to such increased understanding, where nothing new would be added to the public's understanding.

(iii) The disclosure should contribute to the understanding of a reasonably broad audience of persons interested in the subject, as opposed to the individual understanding of the requester. A requester's expertise in the subject area and ability and intention to effectively convey information to the public will be considered. It will be presumed that a representative of the news media will satisfy this consideration.

(iv) The public's understanding of the subject in question, as compared to the level of public understanding existing prior to the disclosure, should be enhanced by the disclosure to a significant extent. However, HUD will not make value judgments about whether information at issue is “important” enough to be made public.

(3) To determine whether the second fee waiver requirement is met, HUD will consider the following factors:

(i) HUD will identify any commercial interest of the requester as defined in paragraph (b) of this section, or of any person on whose behalf the requester may be acting, that would be furthered by the requested disclosure. Requesters shall be given an opportunity in the administrative process to provide explanatory information regarding this consideration.

(ii) A fee waiver or reduction is justified where the public interest standard is satisfied and that public interest is greater than that of any identified commercial interest in disclosure. HUD ordinarily will presume that where a news media requester has satisfied the public interest standard, the public interest will be the interest primarily served by disclosure to that requester. Disclosure to data brokers or others who merely compile and market government information for direct economic return will not be presumed to primarily serve the public interest.

(4) Where only some of the records to be released satisfy the requirements for a waiver of fees, a waiver will be granted for those records.

(5) Requests for the waiver or reduction of fees should address the factors listed in paragraphs (k)(2) and (3) of this section, insofar as they apply to each request. In deciding to grant waivers or reductions of fees, HUD will exercise its discretion to consider the cost effectiveness of its investment of administrative resources.

[80 FR 49145, Aug. 17, 2015, as amended at 82 FR 3622, Jan. 12, 2017]