Court Upholds Monthly Recertification Meetings for Zero-Income Resident
Facts: A resident challenged the termination of her Section 8 housing assistance for failure to attend monthly income-recertification hearings. In August 2012, she applied to the local housing authority to transfer her Section 8 voucher from another city, certifying in the process that she had no income. The housing authority approved her application and issued a voucher, subject to its rule that benefit recipients claiming zero income must appear in person each month to recertify their zero-income status.
Over the next few months, however, the resident repeatedly failed to appear at monthly recertification meetings, requested numerous schedule changes, failed to appear at rescheduled meetings, and attempted to recertify by mail. In November 2012, she appeared in person after the housing authority notified her that it planned to terminate her benefits and that a hearing had been scheduled for that date.
The housing authority permitted her to resolve the pending termination by signing zero-income certification forms for the outstanding months and reminded her that she would have to appear in person each month thereafter. But after she missed subsequent appointments, including one scheduled on a date she chose, the housing authority notified her that her benefits would be terminated.
A hearing was scheduled in January 2013, and the resident appeared in person. After testimony from the resident and a housing authority representative, the hearing officer upheld the housing authority’s decision to terminate her benefits. The resident appealed, arguing that the hearing officer acted arbitrarily and that the rule requiring her to appear in person every month is unreasonable.
Ruling: A Minnesota Court of Appeals agreed with the hearing officer’s decision.
Reasoning: The resident argued that the hearing officer’s decision was arbitrary because the officer didn’t consider whether the resident was at fault for failing to attend appointments. But the court stated that her argument fails because the record shows that the hearing officer did consider whether she was at fault. The resident testified about her difficulties at the January hearing, and the hearing officer noted her testimony before upholding the termination decision. The hearing officer didn’t explicitly find the resident at fault, but her report shows that she inferred the resident’s culpability.
As to the “impossible burden” imposed by the housing authority by requiring her to appear in person every month to recertify her zero-income status, the court stated that the fact that the resident appeared in person on two occasions demonstrates that doing so wasn’t “impossible” in a legal sense. The burden the rule imposed on the resident may have been heavy, but it wasn’t the kind of “impossible burden” that would render the termination decision arbitrary.
Also, the court found that accurate reporting of financial data is a legitimate objective of the U.S. Housing Act. The housing authority successfully argued that in-person reporting may enhance accuracy because a recipient is less likely to be untruthful when face-to-face with a housing authority representative, and because the representative can ask follow-up questions to test the recipient’s veracity and credibility.
- Thompson v. Housing and Redevelopment Authority of Duluth, October 2013