Hearing Officer Didn't Abuse Discretion in Terminating Resident's Voucher
Facts: In May 2014, a Section 8 resident and her three children moved into an apartment. In March 2016, after one child turned 18, he moved out of the apartment. In April 2017, the child repeatedly parked the resident’s car in other tenants’ parking spaces. The resident was notified that this was a lease violation and that, if her child continued to park the car in other tenants’ spots, the car would be towed. Her son apparently stopped parking the car in other tenants’ spots until Aug. 1, when the car was again found in another tenant’s spot. The resident was again notified, and she moved the car.
Eight days later, in the early morning hours of Aug. 9, a tenant in another apartment building at the site awoke to find a man standing in her apartment. The man fled, and the tenant called 911. When the police arrived, they saw the resident’s son walking toward his mother’s apartment building. Based on the victim’s description of the intruder, the police stopped the son. The son denied being the intruder, saying he just arrived. But when the police officer indicated that he was going to check and see if his engine was still warm, the son changed his story, claiming that he had fallen asleep in his vehicle after parking it. The police brought the victim out to the sidewalk, and she identified the resident’s son as the intruder. The son was arrested for burglary.
Later that day, the resident got a notice from the site that it was terminating her lease effective Sept. 9. On Aug. 22, the PHA sent the resident a letter informing her that it would be terminating her rental assistance effective Sept. 30 due to “serious/repeated lease violations and [an] unauthorized adult in the household.” The resident challenged the termination, and an informal hearing was held on Sept. 13. The PHA’s evidence consisted almost entirely of exhibits, including a police report describing the investigation into the intrusion committed by the son. The hearing officer concluded that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to uphold the determination that an unauthorized adult had been living in the resident’s apartment. However, the hearing officer determined that there was sufficient evidence to conclude that there were serious and repeated lease violations and upheld the termination of benefits. The resident appealed.
Ruling: A Minnesota appeals court agreed with the hearing officer’s decision.
Reasoning: The court ruled that the hearing officer did not abuse her discretion in finding that the son was the resident’s guest at the time he committed the burglary. The resident testified that she didn’t know her son was at the site the night of the burglary. And although the hearing officer found her to be “credible in her testimony,” the hearing officer concluded that her son was nevertheless a guest of the resident that evening. The resident argued that this conclusion is legally problematic because it failed to detail the reasons for discounting her credible testimony.
The court disagreed that the hearing officer’s conclusion is inconsistent with her finding that the resident’s testimony was credible. Although the resident may not have explicitly invited her son to her home on the night of the burglary, the record establishes, and the hearing officer found, a clear pattern of her son coming and going from the apartment complex with her knowledge and consent. She testified that her son would visit her apartment, “helped at the apartment,” and used her car car—which, even after her son moved out of the resident’s apartment, was occasionally parked at the site indicating that the resident gave her son general permission to be on the property. Furthermore, her son had keys to the apartment complex, was walking toward his mother’s apartment, and told police he was going “home” when he was questioned. Based on this record, the court concluded that there was sufficient evidence that her son was the resident’s guest and that reaching this conclusion did not require the hearing officer to discredit the resident’s testimony.
- Dirie v. Metro Hous. & Redevelopment Auth., June 2018