Household Member Didn't Use Unit as Principal Place of Residence
Facts: In 2008, when a resident filled out a continued occupancy form for a unit, she included her daughter as one of the people who would live in the subsidized unit, and use it as her primary residence, during the next 12 months. In signing the form, the resident certified that the information she had provided was accurate and complete and that any false statements or information would be grounds for termination from the program.
On that same date, the resident signed a Housing Choice Voucher participant obligations form that listed program requirements, including that participants notify the PHA within 30 days if any family member no longer lived in the unit and that the unit must be used as the family’s principal place of residence.
In August 2013, the PHA sent the resident a letter of intent to terminate her participation in the program. The letter stated that her daughter had been evicted from an unsubsidized unit. This showed that she wasn’t living with the resident in the subsidized unit or using it as her principal place of residence.
At an informal hearing, the PHA introduced public records showing that the daughter and her father were named as defendants in an eviction lawsuit from the unsubsidized unit. A PHA employee also testified that she spoke with the resident on the telephone and informed her about the eviction findings. When she asked the resident if her daughter had ever lived anywhere other than at her unit, the resident stated that her daughter had lived elsewhere, but only for four months, and that she had not informed the PHA about it because she knew that her daughter was coming back to live with her.
The daughter denied ever living elsewhere during that time. She further testified that one day while visiting her father’s unit, the building manager arrived with a lease for her father to sign. Because her father wasn’t there, the manager told her to sign the lease, so she signed her name on it. She testified she didn’t live in that unit with her father, but she occasionally visited him there and spent the night. She also claimed that she didn’t know about the eviction proceeding regarding her father’s unit until the resident was informed about it by the PHA.
The hearing officer found that the resident’s program obligations violations were “serious,” and that her behavior was a “willful and intentional disregard” of the program’s rules and procedures. The hearing officer noted that she had a history of failing to follow program rules and proper procedures, including nonpayment of her portion of rent and prior loss of her voucher due to a “tax mix-up,” and thus found that favorable conduct in the future wasn’t likely. The resident appealed.
Ruling: An Illinois appeals court agreed with the lower court’s ruling.
Reasoning: The court decided that the PHA’s decision to terminate the resident’s assistance in the Housing Choice Voucher program wasn’t clearly erroneous. More specifically, it found that given the evidence presented at the hearing, the hearing officer could reasonably conclude that the resident’s daughter did in fact move out of the subsidized unit and lived off-site at her father’s unit at a time during which she was included on the resident’s voucher.
- Watkins v. Chicago Housing Authority, June 2015