PHA Can Evict Resident for Submitting False Income Statements
Facts: A Section 8 resident lived in her unit for 26 years, since she came to the United States from Afghanistan. On Nov. 16, 2009, she met with the PHA, after it issued a notice that her Section 8 assistance would be suspended or terminated, due to inaccurate financial information on the annual recertification forms.
It is undisputed that the resident’s two adult children, who were listed as living in the household, submitted false statements over a three-year period, indicating no income or financial benefits; the federal computer database found significant income for both. An informal hearing on her case was held on Feb. 24, 2011, and a decision was issued on April 11, 2011, upholding the termination of her Section 8 rent subsidy.
The resident then sued, asking the court to rule that the hearing was arbitrary and capricious. She claimed that her “primary language is Pashto, and she can read and write in Pashto, . . . [but] cannot read or write in English, and her understanding of the English language is very limited.” Her difficulties with the PHA allegedly arose from the differences in the recertification procedure between the Section 8 program and her prior rent subsidy program. In the past, she stated that her building’s “management office put papers in front of her to sign; none of the documents were read to or translated for her into Pashto.” When the Section 8 procedure was introduced, someone “simply transferred the information from the prior year’s recertification, had Petitioner sign the forms . . . [without] ask[ing] her whether the household composition or income information for any household member other than her had changed.” She claimed that “[a]t no time was Petitioner informed or made aware of the fact that she was proactively expected to provide additional information or documentation at any recertification.”
The resident contended that several erroneous factors were involved in the PHA’s determination, including: (1) not providing her with adequate, if any, translation or interpretation support at a mandatory conference prior to any hearing; (2) not providing her with any meaningful opportunity to review her file prior to the hearing; (3) refusing to allow her to introduce any mitigating evidence at the hearing; and (4) issuing a report written by someone who wasn’t present at the hearing, and therefore, wasn’t able to judge her credibility and English language proficiency, or question her directly. In addition, the resident claimed that the penalty of losing her Section 8 rent subsidy would be disproportionately harsh in light of her physical and mental disabilities, information about which she claimed was excluded from the informal hearing.
Ruling: A New York trial court ruled against the resident and dismissed her complaint.
Reasoning: The court determined that the PHA had a rational basis for its decision. Although the resident tried to frame her case as an issue of the failure to provide interpreting services, her adult children, who clearly and indisputably gave false statements about their income, spoke English; were educated in this country; and attended college. It wasn’t disputed that the resident’s adult children weren’t entitled to interpreting services and, even if interpreting services were provided to the mother, it wouldn’t have changed the result and her adult English-speaking children would still have engaged in the submission of fraudulent statements of no income.
- Sarwar v. Wambua, March 2013