Hearing Officer Properly Described Reasons for Decision
Facts: A Section 8 resident signed a one-year lease agreement that stated that, at the end of the lease term, she could continue to rent the unit from the owners, with their consent, on a month-to-month basis. The agreement also provided that, after the initial one-year lease period, either party “can send a notice to the other and cancel this lease at any time.”
After the conclusion of the lease term, the owners sent the resident a letter stating that they wouldn’t lease the unit to her beyond June 30, 2010. They offered her a two-bedroom unit at the same site. On June 8, the resident sent the owners a signed letter stating that she had no desire to move to the other unit. And on June 10, the PHA sent the resident a letter advising her that the owners had notified it that her lease would be terminated on June 30. The letter also advised the resident that no further Section 8 payments would be made on her behalf for her current unit and that, if she wanted to remain in the Section 8 program, she needed to obtain a new housing voucher.
On June 30, the resident was notified that her Section 8 benefits would be terminated. The resident requested an informal hearing. The hearing officer upheld the PHA’s decision to terminate the resident from the Section 8 program on the basis that she had violated the family obligations requirements of the Section 8 program. The resident appealed the decision on the basis that the hearing officer denied her due process by failing to properly describe the reasons for the decision to terminate her Section 8 benefits, and asked the court for a judgment in her favor without a trial.
Ruling: A Connecticut district court denied the resident’s request.
Reasoning: According to the resident, the hearing officer didn’t describe the evidence upon which his decision relied, state the specific actions or inactions that justified the decision, or cite a legal basis for the decision. The PHA’s administrative policy states that written decisions should include the following information: (1) general hearing information; (2) a brief statement of the reason for the hearing; (3) a summary of the testimony of the evidence, including identification of “any documents that a witness produced in support of his/her testimony and that are admitted into evidence”; (4) all findings of fact “based on a preponderance of the evidence”; and (5) a conclusion “derived from the facts” and which “result[s] in a determination of whether these facts uphold the PHA’s decision.”
The court concluded that a reasonable jury could find that the hearing officer’s written decision satisfied the requirements of due process and the federal regulations. Here, the hearing officer issued a written decision on Aug. 10, 2010, five days after the informal hearing on Aug. 5, 2010. That decision included eight separate facts that the hearing officer determined “[f]rom the evidence presented at the Hearing.” Within those stated facts, the officer listed documentary evidence that was introduced at the hearing, including letters exchanged between the resident and the owners. The officer also stated the legal basis for his decision when he concluded that, based on the preponderance of the evidence, the resident had “violated [the] Family Obligations of the Section 8 Program,” and that he agreed with the PHA’s decision to terminate her Section 8 benefits.
- Eslin v. Housing Authority of the Town of Mansfield, June 2013