Resident Disqualified from HCV Program for Threatening PHA Staff
Facts: A Section 8 voucher holder sued a local PHA for terminating his participation in the Section 8 voucher program. The resident initially received a voucher for a one-bedroom apartment but desired a two-bedroom voucher, asserting that he’s disabled and requires an additional bedroom to accommodate a live-in aide or extended visitor to help care for him. He made a “reasonable accommodation” request. The PHA initially denied his request but indicated in a letter to him that it would reconsider his request if he submitted additional documentation substantiating his claimed disability and need for live-in assistance.
Three weeks later, the resident met with a PHA employee to discuss his reasonable accommodation request and participation in the Section 8 program. The resident became agitated during the encounter, and other PHA employees intervened when the resident wouldn’t let the employee conclude the meeting.
The resident returned to the office the following afternoon without an appointment and met with an employee. The employee tried to answer his questions, but the resident again became agitated when the employee tried to conclude the meeting as the PHA office was preparing to close for the day. The resident returned to the PHA office again and called the employee from the building’s lobby phone. He asked to speak with the PHA’s Federal Program Policy manager. When the employee informed him that the manager was unavailable, the resident reportedly responded, “No problem, that’s okay, I know where David lives. As a matter of fact, the reason I wanted to meet with you face-to-face yesterday was because I didn’t know who you were. I know where you live, I know what your children look like, and I can get your ass sued at anytime, and you will lose everything.”
The employee notified her supervisor, prompting staff to ask the resident to leave the building. Staff called the police when he refused to go, but canceled the call when the resident was eventually persuaded to leave the premises. The resident remained in a parking lot across the street and stared down PHA employees as they left the building.
The resident returned to the office a few days later and spoke with the director of Voucher Programs, who informed him that he was aware that he had threatened PHA employees the prior week, and that he needed to leave the building. The police were again summoned, but not before the resident submitted additional documents, including a new reasonable accommodation request with a name and contact phone number for his medical provider.
The next day, the director sent the resident a letter proposing to deny his continued participation in the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program. The letter summarized his threatening behavior and explained that his conduct violated the PHA’s Administrative Plan policy. The letter notified him that he had 10 days to submit a written request for an informal hearing to review the decision to terminate his participation in the Section 8 housing program.
At the informal hearing, the resident became increasingly angry and threatened staff in the room. The hearing officer reported that the resident stated that he knew where the staff lived, and that he would “break” one of them. After this outburst the hearing officer immediately concluded the hearing. The resident was asked to leave the premises, and the incident was reported to the local police department. In a written decision, the hearing officer determined, based on the evidence, testimony, and the resident’s own conduct during the hearing, that the resident had violated the PHA’s policy by threatening violent behavior towards PHA personnel. The resident then sued.
Ruling: A Washington district court dismissed the resident’s claims.
Reasoning: The court noted that the PHA’s decision to terminate the resident from the Section 8 program was warranted. HUD regulations permit PHAs to deny assistance based on a beneficiaries’ previous behavior in assisted housing. The PHA’s administrative plan provides that it will “deny assistance to an applicant family if . . . A family member has engaged in or threatened violent or abusive behavior toward [housing authority] personnel.”
The executive director’s letter to the resident clearly explained why he was ineligible for the program. The resident even acknowledged making a statement to the effect that he knew where certain employees lived and what their families looked like. Given his threatening comments to PHA staff on multiple occasions, the court determined that the PHA’s decision to terminate his participation in the Section 8 program was consistent with both the PHA’s policy and federal regulations.
· Curry v. Vancouver Housing Authority, May 2018