PHA Didn't Satisfy Termination Notice Requirements
In a recent case, a public housing authority in North Carolina failed to evict a nonpaying resident because it couldn’t show evidence of the existence of a lease termination notice.
The PHA conducted an interim recertification due to the resident’s change in income. This recertification resulted in her rent increasing to $489 per month. At the next annual recertification the resident’s rent changed again. She received a notice in August stating that her rent starting Sept. 1 would be $9 per month. The PHA claims the resident failed to pay the $489 August rent. The resident claims she paid, but the PHA lost her payment. When the resident went to the PHA’s office in September to pay the $9 for rent, the PHA refused payment, stating that she was late on her August rent. The PHA said it sent notice of the late payment and notice of termination. But the resident denied receiving any such notice. A lower court judge granted a judgment without a trial in the PHA’s favor. The resident appealed, and the North Carolina appeals court reversed the lower court’s decision [Oxford Housing Authority v. Glenn, August 2023].
No Proof of Compliant Termination Notice
In this case, the steps for terminating a lease are specified in the lease agreement and compliant with Section 855.4 of the Code of Federal Regulations. A written lease termination notice for failure to pay rent must be given 14 days in advance. In addition, the notice of lease termination must state specific grounds for termination and inform the tenant of her right to reply.
The notice must also inform the tenant of the right to examine PHA documents directly relevant to the termination or eviction. When the PHA is required to offer the tenant the opportunity for a grievance hearing, the notice must also inform the tenant of her right to request a hearing in accordance with the PHA’s grievance procedure.
The court found that the record contained no evidence of the written notice of termination, and the resident denied receiving notice. While the PHA claims to have sent notice, it was unable to provide evidence of the existence of this notice. The PHA testified it sent the notice and that the notice stated the following: “The rent is due and payable on first of the month. We give the amount and it is dated the 11th and as of today's day, the rent has not been paid. If the rent is not paid by the 21st of the month, we will proceed with court proceedings.”
According to the court, assuming there was evidence of the notice, the PHA’s testimony of what the notice included doesn’t satisfy the requirements plainly written in the lease.
Termination notices to Section 8 residents must strictly satisfy the requirements of the lease and federal statutes and regulations. Be sure to make copies of all written notices served or sent to residents.
Federal regulations also dictate how a termination notice must be served to the resident. To properly serve a termination notice, the PHA must send a letter by first-class mail, properly stamped and addressed, to the resident at his or her address at the site, with a proper return address, and serve a copy of the notice on any adult person answering the door at the leased dwelling unit, or if no adult responds, by placing the notice under or through the door, if possible, or else by affixing the notice to the door. Service won’t be deemed effective until both notices have been accomplished. The date on which the notice will be deemed to be received by the tenant will be the date on which the first-class letter is mailed, or the date on which the notice described above is properly given, whichever is later [24 C.F.R. §247.4 (b)].