Housing Authority Gave Insufficient Notice of Termination
Facts: A former resident sued the local housing authority for allegedly violating her due process rights when they terminated her Section 8 voucher. The voucher paid all of the resident’s $875 monthly rent. In her termination letter, the housing authority stated that she failed to submit her recertification package, failed to attend her recertification appointment, and violated her lease.
Sometime in 2012, the owner began sending complaints about the resident’s conduct to the housing authority. According to the complaints, the resident had allowed a nonresident to use keys to enter the building and her unit. Also, young men had unlocked the front doors with screwdrivers to visit the resident; as a result, the locks needed to be replaced. The owner also complained about the resident hosting crowds of visitors who would stay late into the night, use drugs, and urinate in the hallways. In addition, the resident would hold barbecues in front of the building that would gather large crowds until early in the morning. Fights requiring a police response would break out at these barbecues on a regular basis.
The resident requested an administrative hearing to dispute her termination from the program. The hearing was informal, and consisted of a discussion among the three participants. Neither the owner nor anyone with personal knowledge of the resident’s conduct was present at the hearing, which lasted approximately 10 minutes. The resident didn’t bring an attorney, and claimed that she wasn’t informed of her right to have one. The hearing officer rendered a decision upholding the resident’s termination from the Section 8 program.
Ruling: A New Jersey state court ordered that another administrative hearing be held.
Reasoning: To terminate benefits, the regulations require that a housing authority give a resident a prompt written notice that the resident may request a hearing. The notice must: (1) contain a brief statement of the reasons for the decision; (2) state that if the resident doesn’t agree with the decision, the household may request an informal hearing on the decision; and (3) state the deadline for the resident to request an informal hearing [24 C.F.R. 982.555(c)(2)].
In this case, the court ruled that the notice was insufficient. There were no specific reasons given for termination. The initial notice stated only that she didn’t submit a package for recertification, didn’t come for recertification, and violated her lease. The second notice sent to her merely provided the resident with the date of her hearing, and didn’t elaborate on the reasons her voucher was being terminated. A valid notice would have identified which lease provisions were violated and listed specific incidences of disruptive conduct. Without adequate notice, the resident couldn’t be given an effective opportunity to defend herself and present her own evidence.
- Younger v. Jersey City Housing Authority, January 2013