PHA Not Required to Consider Personal Circumstances for Violation of Income-Reporting Rule
Facts: A resident, an unemployed single mother of four children, had been receiving Section 8 vouchers for eight years when the events giving rise to the conflict in this case occurred. When she completed her annual recertification process in June 2010, she signed a copy of the public housing authority's (PHA's) “family obligations” policy and watched a film explaining the policies. By signing, she acknowledged obligations, including one that states, “I understand that I must report all changes in my household income in writing to the housing authority within five days of the change,” and another that states, “I understand that false statements or information are grounds for termination of housing assistance.”
That same month the resident applied for benefits for a new unit. The next month, on July 8, 2010, she transmitted a written statement by facsimile to the PHA representing that she had no income. The form containing that statement also declared, “I understand that failure to report income may result in termination of my rental assistance and/or repayment to the Washington County HRA of any rent overpaid on my behalf.” She moved into the new unit at the end of July.
But on Aug. 4, the PHA received a packet from the resident's site manager containing an income certification form that she completed indicating that she received $7,764 yearly in public-assistance income. When the PHA's employee called the resident to inform her that she had received a copy of the lease, the resident didn't mention the public-assistance income. The PHA confirmed with Washington County Social Services that the resident had received $375 on July 14 and $647 on July 30 in Minnesota Family Investment Program grants. The PHA then notified the resident that it was terminating her housing assistance because she failed to report this income.
The resident requested and received an informal hearing. She claimed that she had left a voicemail message and cited challenging personal circumstances such as flood damage, school, caring for an ailing aunt, and visiting her dying uncle. The hearing officer concluded that the resident had failed to report income in writing within five days of receiving it and decided that her Section 8 housing assistance should be terminated. The resident appealed.
Ruling: A Minnesota appeals court upheld the PHA's decision.
Reasoning: The resident challenged the hearing officer's decision, arguing that the PHA's rule requiring participants to report changes in income within five days is not allowed by federal law and that the hearing officer failed to consider relevant facts, make required findings, and base those findings on sufficient evidence. The court ruled that federal law authorizes the local housing authority to impose the rule, and that the hearing officer was not required to consider mitigating personal circumstances to excuse the resident's reporting failure, and that the evidence supports the decision.
- Peterson v. Wash. County Hous. and Redevelopment Authority, August 2011