Resident's Past Eviction Requires Termination from Section 8 Program
Facts: In 2010, a Section 8 resident fell behind in paying her portion of her unit’s subsidized rent. The owner started an eviction lawsuit. The court issued an “Order for Possession,” finding that the owner was entitled to possession of the resident’s unit.
On Sept. 23, 2010, the resident met with her caseworker at the local housing authority and expressed her desire to move to a less expensive residence. She submitted a handwritten letter to the housing authority explaining that she had “fallen behind in my bills” and “can’t afford to stay in my unit” because she had experienced a decline in her business as a hairstylist.
The letter stated that she planned to move out as soon as possible and would live with her son until she could find another unit. The letter additionally stated “[t]he landlord wants to take me to court,” but did not indicate that legal proceedings had been initiated. The housing authority worker advised her to pay the owner any outstanding rent owed in order to be eligible to receive moving papers.
The resident received and signed a number of housing authority forms to process her request for a new rental subsidy. One such document, entitled “Chicago Housing Choice Voucher Program Family Obligations,” lists numerous requirements of program participants and states that “[f]amilies who fail to comply with Family Obligations will be terminated from the voucher program.” The listed obligations include that “[t]he Family must comply with the term of the lease and not commit serious or repeated violations of the lease.” The document further warns: “Families evicted for cause will be terminated from the program” and requires the family to “give the housing authority a copy of any owner eviction notice.” The resident signed and dated the document below the statement: “I understand any violation of my family obligations will result in my family’s termination from the program.”
In October 2010, the resident and the owner entered into an agreement in which she agreed to pay all outstanding rent owed according to a negotiated payment plan. The resident eventually paid all amounts due to the owner under this agreement.
However, two years after the eviction proceeding, the housing authority gave notice of its plan to terminate her from the Section 8 program. The housing authority pointed to her past eviction from the previous unit, which warrants mandatory termination from the program. After an informal hearing, the hearing officer upheld the housing authority’s decision and noted that it could not consider mitigating circumstances because the order of possession placed the resident within the scope of mandatory, rather than discretionary, termination. The resident then filed a lawsuit, and the trial court upheld the housing authority’s decision. The resident appealed.
Ruling: An Illinois appeals court ruled in the housing authority’s favor.
Reasoning: The court found that termination of the resident from the rent subsidy program wasn’t wrong since termination was mandatory under governing federal regulation, and therefore, the housing authority lacked discretion to consider mitigating circumstances.
The resident’s move from the previous unit pursuant to an eviction order against her for nonpayment of rent constituted “eviction” due to “serious violation of the lease” under regulations mandating termination, notwithstanding her subsequent payment of outstanding rent and the housing authority’s delay in seeking termination.
- Morrow v. Chicago Housing Authority, October 2014