PHA's Accidental Acceptance of Sex Offender Doesn't Preclude Lease Termination
Facts: When a resident filled out a PHA’s application, he noted he was a registered sex offender. Although the PHA doesn’t permit registered sex offenders into its housing program, it admitted him. The PHA didn’t read his application carefully, if at all; instead, it relied on a preliminary background check to accept the resident into the program.
After the resident had lived in his home for seven months, the PHA sent the resident a notice that he was being terminated from the housing program because he was a registered sex offender. The resident sued, claiming the PHA can’t terminate him, because it should be prevented from using the termination clause in his lease. The PHA asked the judge for a judgment without a trial in its favor, arguing that the resident can’t prove his claims.
Ruling: A Nevada district court granted the PHA’s request.
Reasoning: The court ruled that the PHA didn’t waive its rights and isn’t prevented from terminating the resident’s lease. The lease states that the PHA “may terminate this lease agreement if . . . [a] household member . . . is found to have: a prior or current conviction for a sexual criminal offense that is subject to the Nevada Offender Registration Program.” The lease further states that “failure of [the PHA] to insist upon the strict performance by the Tenant of the terms . . . and conditions contained in this Lease . . . shall not constitute . . . a waiver or relinquishment” of the PHA’s rights. The lease also states that a waiver of the PHA’s rights isn’t effective unless it’s in writing and signed by the PHA.
The resident tried to get the court to prevent the PHA from taking an action it normally would have the right to take, in order to prevent an inequitable result. But he couldn’t show how he justifiably relied to his detriment on the PHA’s agreement to lease him his unit. For instance, he didn’t prove that he lost another housing opportunity as a result of the PHA’s delay in seeking to evict him.
Next, the resident didn’t prove that he reasonably believed the PHA intended not to enforce the termination provision. The PHA specifically reserved its right to enforce the lease terms even if it didn’t enforce them at the outset. No lease term required the PHA to enforce the termination provision at any specific time. And the resident provided no evidence he was ignorant of the fact that the PHA might later terminate him because of his registration status. This is especially true because the terms of the lease put him on notice that his registration was a potential basis for termination and that the PHA reserved the right to enforce the termination provision later.
- Zimbelman v. Southern Nevada Housing Authority, June 2015