Resident Evicted for Repeated Minor Violations
Facts: An owner sought to evict a resident from a HUD-subsidized apartment for material lease violations. A code enforcement officer for the city appeared as witness for the owner and testified that, after receiving a police-initiated complaint, he inspected the resident’s unit on Oct. 14, 2017. He observed minor problems, including roaches, a faulty smoke detector, a broken dishwasher, and the odor of cat urine. The issues were addressed, and the case was closed.
On Jan. 3, 2018, the manager asked the code enforcement officer to accompany her on a regular inspection. When they arrived at the resident’s apartment, the resident didn’t allow entry for inspection and was upset, stating that she felt she was being singled out. The resident did allow entry on Feb. 13, at which time, according to the code enforcement officer, an odor of cat urine remained, in addition to the smell of incense, and there were roaches on the wall.
The manager testified that all units are inspected quarterly. In December 2017, an inspection was attempted, but the resident refused entry. The inspection was rescheduled for Jan. 3. Entry was again denied and the resident was verbally abusive to the inspectors. On Jan. 12 the manager sent a “Notice of Material Non-compliance” to the resident alleging violations of the Community Rules and Regulations, namely the resident’s verbal abuse of the manager and failure to allow entry for pest control and unit inspections. The resident was given 10 days to “follow the community rules and regulations and lease agreement and comply with regularly scheduled inspections,” or her continued noncompliance would lead to lease termination. The letter included notice that the resident had a right to respond and had a right to a hearing in accordance with HUD regulations.
When the manager arrived for the scheduled inspection on Jan. 22, the last day for compliance, no one answered the door. In February, access to the unit was gained, and the manager and code enforcement officer noted there was clutter, broken items, roaches, and a strong ammonia smell. A 60-day notice of lease termination, dated Feb. 26, 2018, was sent to the resident citing repeated violations of the pet policy; interference with the pest control service; refusal to permit, or interference with, inspections; changing locks or obstructed entrance; and lack of cleanliness.
The resident testified that she had never had a problem with previous managers. She stated that she felt she was being retaliated against because she had sued the site after being injured in a fall on the premises in January 2015. Although she had been complaining about the dishwasher for five years, a new one was just put in recently. Her other maintenance complaints, including doors and windows frozen over, a hole in the carpet, a crack in the counter, and plaster missing from the kitchen wall, have never been addressed. The resident said that she sent several letters to management waiving inspections and requesting new dates.
The manager testified that work orders are prioritized by the maintenance staff. Maintenance did enter the apartment in September 2017 to address the dishwasher issue but had to leave because of the ammonia smell in the apartment. A new dishwasher was eventually installed. Several completed work orders were entered into evidence.
Ruling: The Delaware court ruled against the resident and awarded judgment for possession of the apartment to the owner.
Reasoning: The HUD Occupancy Handbook, Chapter 8, Section 3, addresses allowable circumstances for terminating tenancy including repeated minor violations. The resident was given multiple opportunities to cure these minor violations. Additionally, proper notice procedures were followed, in accordance with HUD regulations and the Delaware Code. The court found that the resident was given notice to cure multiple violations. Understanding that there may have been hardships, the court found the resident could have requested a hearing after receiving each letter, but she didn’t. And the court found that the resident’s claims of harassment and retaliation were without merit.
- Case Edwards Mgmt. v. Bugieda, June 2018