Refresher Course: Recognizing Resident Rights
HUD's regulations governing resident participation in multifamily housing projects are found in the Code of Federal Regulations at 24 CFR Part 245. The regulations reflect HUD's commitment to resident participation, individually and through legitimate resident organizations. HUD has emphasized that compliance with these requirements is expected. Site owners and managers found violating these regulations can face sanctions that include monetary penalties.
Here are the key features of the regulations.
Right to Organize
Part 245.100 gives residents of covered multifamily housing sites the right to establish and operate a resident organization for the purpose of addressing issues related to their living environment, as well as activities related to housing and community development.
Part 245.110 defines a legitimate resident organization as one that has been established for the purposes stated in Part 245.100. Other requirements are that the organization meets regularly, operates democratically, is representative of all residents at the site, and is completely independent of owners, management, and their representatives.
The definition covers “organizing committees” newly formed by residents, and does not require specific structures, written bylaws, elections, or resident petitions for a group to be considered legitimate.
Part 245.115 defines specific activities that owners and managers must allow tenant organizers to conduct related to the establishment or operation of a resident organization. These include: distributing leaflets in the lobby and common areas and under residents' doors; initiating contact with residents; conducting door-to-door surveys and disseminating information about the organization; posting information on bulletin boards; and convening resident organization meetings on-site in a manner that's fully independent of management representatives.
Residents also have the right to formulate responses to owners' requests for rent increases; conversion from site-paid utilities to resident-paid utilities; converting units to nonresidential use or condominiums; capital additions; and loan repayment.
To preserve the independence of resident organizations, the regulations specify that management representatives may not attend resident meetings unless specifically invited. Owners and managers are prohibited from requiring residents or tenant organizers to obtain prior permission before engaging in protected activities.
Part 245.120 requires owners and managers to reasonably make available the use of any community room or other appropriate space for meetings when requested by residents or the resident organization for activities related to the operation or establishment of the organization, or to collectively address issues related to their living environment. These meetings must be accessible to individuals with disabilities, unless this is impractical for reasons beyond the organization's control. An owner may charge a reasonable fee, approved by HUD, as may normally be charged for the use of such facilities.
Part 245.125 defines a “tenant organizer” as a resident or nonresident who assists residents in establishing and operating a resident organization, and who is not an employee or representative of current or prospective owners, managers, or their agents. An organizer who is a nonresident must be accompanied by a resident while on the property of the multifamily housing site only in cases where the site has a written, consistently enforced policy against canvassing.
HUD Handbook 4381.5, REV-2, Chapter 4, says that owners and/or management agents may not create impediments for residents or resident associations attempting to exercise their rights. Examples of these include: unreasonably denying accessible meeting space to residents; repeatedly sending management representatives to resident meetings that residents have requested management not to attend; evicting, threatening to evict, withholding entitlements, or otherwise penalizing residents for organizing or asserting their rights; attempting to adversely influence resident leaders by offering individual inducements such as employment, preferential transfers, rent abatements, favored repairs, or other benefits not available to all residents; attempting to form a competing resident organization under the control of the management company or the owner; and sexually harassing residents.
Part 245.135 states that owners, agents, and principals or affiliates who violate any provision of Part 245 may be liable for sanction, including the imposition of civil monetary penalties.
Check with your local HUD Program Center for more information.
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