Four Important Rights and Responsibilities of Residents and Owners
In July 2016, HUD posted a new Resident Rights and Responsibilities brochure on its website. This brochure tells households about their rights and responsibilities as residents of assisted housing. You must give the brochure to the household head whenever a new household signs its first lease with you, and each year at annual recertification.
The revised brochure contains much of the same information as the old version, but there are some updates. The new brochure includes the new protected classes introduced with the Equal Access Rule; reminds residents that they have a responsibility to notify owner/agents of changes in a timely manner; expands information about residents’ rights to be involved; provides additional information about enhanced vouchers; and updates information about HUD resources and contacts. The brochure does not apply to the public housing program, the Section 8 Moderate Rehabilitation Program (except for multifamily housing sites insured by HUD), and the Housing Choice Voucher Program (except when a voucher is used at a multifamily housing site with a HUD-insured mortgage). To download or print a copy of the brochure in English, visit https://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/documents/huddoc?id=DOC_12162.pdf. The brochure is also available in Arabic, Amharic, Armenian, Cambodian, Chinese, Farsi, French, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.
Along with the brochure, the HUD model lease for its subsidy programs gives both residents and owners a more complete idea of their rights and responsibilities. Here are four issues covered in the model lease and brochure and how they affect you.
Rights Involving Discrimination
The model lease makes clear that owners are not to discriminate based upon race, color, religion, creed, national origin, sex, age, familial status, and disability (par. 21). Likewise, the resident rights and responsibilities brochure emphasizes the resident’s right to equal and fair treatment and use of your site’s services and facilities without regard to the characteristics listed above and gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
The mode lease also includes two paragraphs making clear that you must grant a reasonable accommodation or modification request if a disabled resident or prospect needs the accommodation or modification to allow him to use and enjoy your site. Because it’s in the lease, residents will know that they have this right.
Restrictions on alterations (par. 12). The model lease includes a paragraph restricting residents’ right to make alterations to the site. The paragraph bans alterations without your prior written approval. But it also makes clear that you must make reasonable accommodations or modifications to the unit or common area unless they would constitute a “fundamental alteration” to your program or would impose a “substantial financial or administrative hardship” on your site. If you deny a resident’s request for either of these reasons, you still must let the resident make the alterations at his own expense as permitted under the Fair Housing Act.
Ban on pets (par. 13(d)). The lease bans pets at assisted sites unless the resident gets your prior written approval. It also makes clear that you must let a resident keep an animal if the resident needs the animal to accommodate his disability, and you must let visitors bring animals on the site if the visitors need the animals to accommodate their disabilities.
Resident Responsibilities Involving Criminal Activity
Residents have a responsibility to the site and fellow residents to not engage in criminal activity in the apartment or common areas. The model lease includes a “one-strike” lease clause to paragraph 23, making drug-related and certain other criminal activity on or near the site by household members, guests, or other persons “under the tenant’s control” grounds for eviction (par. 23(c)(3-10)).
Owners may terminate tenancy for any of the following types of criminal activity by a covered person (a tenant, household member, guest, or other person under the tenant’s control):
- Any criminal activity that threatens the health, safety, or right to peaceful enjoyment of the premises by other residents (including property management staff residing on the premises); or
- Any criminal activity that threatens the health, safety, or right to peaceful enjoyment of their residences by persons residing in the immediate vicinity of the premises.
In addition, owners may terminate tenancy and evict tenants for criminal activity by a covered person if they determine that the covered person has engaged in the criminal activity, regardless of whether the covered person has been arrested or convicted for such activity and without satisfying a criminal conviction standard of proof of the activity [HUD Handbook 4350.3, par. 8-14(A)(2)(b)].
Although owners may terminate a resident’s tenancy for criminal activity by a covered person, the HUD Handbook identifies factors to consider when terminating tenancy for drug abuse or other criminal activity. As part of their eviction standards, owners may consider all of the circumstances relevant to a particular eviction case, such as:
- The seriousness of the offending action;
- The effect on the community of terminating or not terminating tenancy;
- The extent of the tenant’s participation in the offending action;
- The effect of termination of tenancy on household members not involved in the offending action;
- The demand for assisted housing by families who will adhere to lease responsibilities;
- The extent to which the tenant has shown personal responsibility and taken all reasonable steps to prevent or mitigate the offending action; and
- The effect of the owner’s action on the integrity of the program [HUD Handbook 4350.3, par. 8-14(B)(1)].
Residents’ Right to Organize
Residents have certain rights involving resident organizations. They have the right to organize as residents without obstruction, harassment, or retaliation from owners or management. They can provide leaflets and post materials in common areas informing other residents of their rights and opportunities to involve themselves at the site. Residents have the right to use appropriate common space or meeting facilities to organize (this may be subject to a reasonable, HUD-approved fee). The residents have the right to meet without representatives or employees of the owner or management company present. And residents have the right to be recognized by the owners and management company as having a voice in residential community affairs.
The model lease emphasizes these rights. It says that you agree to let residents and resident organizers establish and operate a resident organization as required by HUD’s tenant participation rule. The rule requires owners and managers to recognize legitimate resident organizations and to listen to their concerns about certain management decisions and living conditions. It spells out the activities that you must allow residents and organizers to conduct so that they can organize and operate resident organizations at your site (par. 28).
The penalties for violating the tenant participation rule are tough. If you interfere with residents’ right to organize and participate in resident organizations, you could face debarment, suspension, or limited denial of future participation in HUD programs.
Right to Lease Termination When Section 8 HAP Contract Terminates
The model lease states the lease will terminate automatically if the Section 8 HAP contract terminates “for any reason.” This is useful for owners with expiring Section 8 contracts who are considering opting out. But ask your attorney to review this clause to make sure it complies with your state’s notice requirements. Most states don’t let you automatically terminate a lease without any notice (par. 30).
You can find the HUD Model Lease for Subsidized Programs and three other model leases under Appendix 4 of HUD Handbook 4350.3. If you own or manage a Section 202/8, Section 202/PRAC, or Section 811/PRAC site, you must use the lease that applies to your site. HUD also says that sites financed by a state agency must use the lease the state agency requires and must ask the agency to approve any changes.