Voucher Termination Denies Resident Due Process
Facts: A housing authority terminated Section 8 rental assistance after a voucher holder was involved in a violent altercation with a neighbor. Although the voucher holder had not been convicted of any crime, he had been charged with two felony counts of aggravated assault. Believing the resident's claim of self-defense, the manager of the private rental complex decided not to evict the resident based on the incident. However, the housing authority that issued the voucher and subsidized the unit rent decided to terminate assistance once the criminal charges were filed. The housing authority stated that the existence of felony charges alone, even without arrest or conviction, was all the agency needed to establish criminal activity and justify terminating assistance. The housing authority later claimed in court, though, that it terminated because the resident admitted to violating a city ordinance against firing guns. The voucher holder challenged his termination in federal court as a violation of due process.
Decision: The U.S. District Court for the District of Utah sided with the voucher holder.
Reasoning: In the hearings, the housing authority did not give the voucher holder an opportunity to defend himself against the claim that he violated the ordinance by discharging a gun in city limits. According to the court, “Under due process standards, [the housing authority] cannot change its basis for termination from being charged with aggravated assault to discharging a gun in city limits.” In addition, the court found the housing authority's written decision faulty. Although the decision referred to documentation in the case to justify the agency's action, the written statement did not provide the promised evidence. Instead, the hearing officer gave only a statement of the decision, without reasons to support it, apparently relying in full on the housing authority's position that the criminal charges provided all the evidence required to justify termination. The court considered these weaknesses a denial of due process and revoked the termination.
- Brantley v. West Valley City Housing Authority, February 2009