PHA Must Postpone Disabled Resident's Eviction
Facts: Two residents signed a lease in June 2010, in which one was identified as the “tenant” and the other was identified as “co-tenant.” One day, the co-tenant confronted his neighbor and physically struck him. The neighbor then filed a complaint with the police department. The day after the confrontation, the PHA sent the tenant a termination notice. The tenant requested an informal telephone conference to review the determination to terminate her residency. In this informal hearing, the tenant argued that her tenancy shouldn't be terminated because the co- tenant struck the neighbor in self-defense. The PHA continued with the eviction process, and the tenant was given a formal administrative hearing.
At the hearing, the tenants argued that the violent conduct was caused by the co-tenant's mental disability, paranoid schizophrenia, and they requested a reasonable accommodation of a probationary period during which they could make changes to the co-tenant's medical treatment to prevent a recurrence of his violent behavior. The hearing officer concluded that the lease had been violated and the eviction would continue.
The tenants sued the PHA for violating their federal disability rights. The PHA continued with the eviction proceeding in state court, and the tenant then asked a federal court to intervene and prevent the state court proceeding.
Ruling: A New York district court granted the tenant's request to delay the state court proceeding.
Reasoning: The court decided that the tenant had shown a sufficient likelihood of success on the federal disability claims to justify postponing the eviction proceedings to decide the disability claims first.
Federal law allows for reasonable accommodations of individuals with mental disabilities and has set forth procedures and guidance to assist PHAs with determining whether and to what extent an existing resident is entitled to such an accommodation. The court decided that the PHA failed to show that it gave any serious consideration to the tenants' rights under the federal disability statutes before initiating the eviction proceeding.
The court also considered that in the one year after the attack on the neighbor, neither tenant has acted in a violent manner toward any of the other residents.
Sinisgallo v. Town of Islip Housing Authority, May 2012