Applicant Submitted Voucher Documents Past Expiration Date
Facts: An applicant sued a caseworker in her official capacity as an employee of the PHA. The applicant was issued a Section 8 voucher on Oct. 18, 2017, and was given 60 days to find housing for him and his family. He claimed that he found housing on Dec. 16, 2017, signed a tenancy agreement, and paid a deposit. He alleged that the PHA’s voucher specialist refused to approve his voucher, “leaving me and my family homeless.” He sought $4.75 million in damages, including punitive damages, due to the caseworker’s refusal “to rent the home we found before the expiration of the Section 8 Choice Voucher.”
The voucher issued to the applicant specifically provided that, while the PHA expects to have money available to enter into a HAP contract with the owner if the family finds an approvable unit, the PHA is “under no obligation to the family, to the owner, or to any other person to approve a tenancy. The [PHA] does not have any liability to any party by issuance of this voucher.” The voucher further specifically advised that it “does not give the family any right to participate in the [PHA’s] Housing Choice Voucher Program. The family becomes a participant in the [PHA’s] Housing Program when the HAP contract between the [PHA] and the owner takes effect.”
Finally, the voucher also stated that if the applicant found a suitable unit where an owner was willing to participate in the program, he was required to give the PHA the Request for Tenancy Approval signed by the owner and the family, along with a copy of the lease including the HUD-prescribed Tenancy Addendum. The voucher further stated, in bold writing, “Note: Both documents must be given to the [PHA] no later than the expiration date stated in Item 3 or 4 on top of Page One of this voucher,” with the expiration date shown on the voucher being “12/17/2017.”
The caseworker attested that the applicant didn’t return his Request for Tenancy Approval to the PHA until Dec. 18, 2017, at 12:23 p.m., which was after his voucher had expired. Under the terms of the voucher and HUD rules, he was only an applicant for housing assistance, and that when an applicant doesn’t complete and submit his application for housing assistance on time, the available funds go to other applicants who did properly submit a timely application, on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Ruling: A South Carolina district court granted the caseworker a judgment without a trial in her favor and dismissed the case.
Reasoning: The court highlighted that the housing voucher that had been provided to the applicant only allowed him to look for potential qualifying housing under the Section 8 program. It didn’t entitle him to housing funding, nor did it even make him a participant in the Section 8 program. Also, the applicant didn’t dispute that the PHA didn’t receive his Request for Tenancy Approval until after his voucher had expired. Therefore, the court ruled that his claim is without merit. Furthermore, according to the court, the applicant failed to establish a genuine issue of fact that the caseworker is subject to any liability for her actions.
- Harrison v. Kennedy, October 2018