Minor Property Damage Insufficient Grounds for Lease Termination
Facts: As a result of conditions found at an annual unit inspection, the site owner terminated a resident's lease. At a formal grievance hearing in February 2009, the hearing officer supported the owner's decision to terminate the lease as a result of several lease violations, including damage to the outside garage door, soiled carpets, and children's crayon markings on the walls of the unit. The violations also included electrical supply cut-off due to nonpayment, which the owner claimed violated the resident's responsibility to maintain heat sufficient to prevent the pipes from freezing.
Shortly after the grievance hearing, the resident reinstated electrical service and cleaned the rugs and crayon markings. Meanwhile, the owner continued to pursue lease termination.
At a trial in May 2009, the court sided with the resident and denied the owner's request to proceed with the lease termination. The owner asked the court to review the case again.
Decision: The court again ruled in favor of the resident and denied the owner's request to proceed with lease termination.
Reasoning: The court could not find any examples in which a court upheld the termination of a resident's lease for messy housekeeping, which was cured; minor damage to the outside of a building, which could have been done by anyone; or a few days termination of electrical services for inability to pay. The court pointed out that the severe sanction of HUD lease termination has primarily been reserved for serious criminal activity involving drugs, guns, and physical violence, and occasionally for unauthorized subletting. And, the court emphasized, this was clearly not the case in this instance.
- Millennium Hills Housing Development Fund Corp., October 2009