PHA Didn't Prove Husband Was Unauthorized Household Member
Facts: A local PHA terminated a resident from the Housing Choice Voucher program after learning that her husband had listed her unit as his mailing address. The resident and her husband were married in August 2002. A few months later, they separated and he moved out of the resident’s unit. After an informal hearing, the PHA concluded that he was residing in her household as an unauthorized occupant.
In December 2011, the resident went to the PHA and requested that her son be removed from her household. At the same time, she asked that her husband be added to the voucher because they had reconciled. The husband signed some papers, including a Judicial Information System Screening Form, a Personal Declaration Form, an Authorization for the Release of Information/Privacy Act Notice, and a Citizenship Verification form, allowing the PHA to conduct a criminal background check.
By letter, the PHA notified the resident that her participation in the program would be terminated for “tenant non-compliance—violation of family obligations/unauthorized occupant.” The background check showed the husband’s address as the resident’s address on three different occasions. All of the dates happened before the resident’s attempt to add the husband to the voucher.
At the informal hearing, the resident explained that the husband used her address to receive mail from child support and Veterans Affairs because he didn’t have a stable address. The husband corroborated the resident’s testimony and added that he lived with his son for several periods of time over the past 10 years. The hearing officer ruled against the resident, relying on the site’s visitor’s policy, which stated that “use of the unit address as the visitor’s current residence for any purpose that is not explicitly temporary shall be construed as permanent residence.” Therefore, the officer considered the husband to be living in the unit as an unauthorized member. The resident appealed.
Ruling: The Maryland appeals court reversed the decision and ruled for the resident.
Reasoning: The court ruled that the hearing officer improperly applied the visitor policy in reaching the conclusion that the husband was an unauthorized household member. The visitor policy states that any adult who has been in the unit more than 14 consecutive days without PHA approval, or a total of 90 days in a 12-month period, will be considered to be living in the unit as an unauthorized household member. Determination of the unauthorized status includes factors such as use of the unit address as the visitor’s current address.
Here, the court stated that to rely on this policy, the officer had to do so in whole, not in part. The officer didn’t make a factual finding that the husband was “in the unit” and, from there, determine if he was an unauthorized household member using determining factors. At no time before or during the hearing, did the PHA establish that the husband had been in the unit more than 14 consecutive days or a total of 90 days in a 12-month period. The only evidence presented was that he used the address for mailing purposes. The court stated that this evidence didn’t prove he lived in the unit as an unauthorized household member.
- Matthews v. Housing Authority of Baltimore City, March 2014