Owner, Not Housing Board, Responsible for Resident's Eviction
Facts: The Mobile, Ala., Housing Board discovered that a Section 8 resident had failed to report an increase in her household income. It sent the resident a letter notifying her that the housing board had overpaid its portion of the rent for 16 months in the amount of $3,248, which the resident must repay.
The resident agreed that she owed that amount and entered into a payback agreement by which she would make monthly payments over a 12-month period. However, after those 12 months, the resident had a balance due of $1,496.13, and had stopped making additional payments.
The housing board then discovered that the resident's daughter had started working, but that the resident didn't report her daughter's income in a timely manner. The housing board sent the resident a letter noting that it had overpaid her rent subsidy in the amount of $690, which the resident must repay. The resident then entered into a second payback agreement. But after making the initial down payment, she failed to make the agreed-upon monthly repayments for a six-month period.
The housing board sent the resident another letter, this time stating that she was in arrears on both repayment agreements, and that the housing board would cancel her Section 8 eligibility unless she paid the outstanding balances.
At an informal meeting with the resident, the housing board told her that she could continue her Section 8 benefits if she paid one-half of the delinquent amounts due at that time. She didn't do so, so the housing board then sent the resident a letter stating that her Section 8 eligibility would be canceled for her failure to comply with her Section 8 obligations to repay the delinquent amounts. She was also informed that the site owner was considering evicting her due to her nonpayment of rent.
The resident sued the housing board, claiming that it had violated her civil rights by taking her Section 8 voucher without notifying her in writing and by helping the owner to evict her.
Ruling: The court sided with the housing board.
Reasoning: The court concluded that there was no evidence that the resident was terminated from eligibility for Section 8 housing. Although it threatened to do so, the housing board didn't terminate or cancel the resident's Section 8 benefits due to her failure to pay the amounts due under the two payback agreements, the court noted.
Indeed, the court stated, the housing board didn't stop making subsidy payments on the resident's behalf even though she was significantly in arrears. Rather, the resident's failure to pay rent to her owner, resulting in her eviction, triggered a specific HAP contract cancellation. The HAP contract between the housing board and the owner provided that it would terminate automatically if the lease was terminated by the owner, which occurred in this case. Once the resident was evicted from her unit by the owner, the voucher that was attached to the residence and the HAP contract terminated. In other words, the court explained, there was no valid contract under which the housing board could provide rental assistance to the resident.
Thus, the court reasoned, the resident's claim that her Section 8 voucher benefits were terminated by the housing board “without notice” lacked merit. The resident's complaint didn't allege that the housing board played any role in the termination of her lease or her eviction. Rather, the court stated, the resident simply quit paying any rent, which precipitated the eviction proceeding. Therefore, the court concluded, the resident's civil rights claims must fail.
- Mahan v. Mobile Housing Board, March 2011