Wife of Deceased Resident Denied Succession Rights to Unit
Facts: A public housing resident married another public housing resident and moved into his unit, without notifying the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) or asking that her name be added to her husband's lease agreement.
The husband submitted an Occupant's Affidavit of Income to NYCHA every year, listing himself and his grandchildren as occupants of the unit, but he never added his new wife's name to the affidavits.
Despite moving out of her old public housing unit, the wife continued paying rent for the vacant unit for several years. When her husband died, she finally notified NYCHA that her old unit was no longer her residence, and she formally surrendered possession of it.
When NYCHA sought to evict the woman from her new unit, she asked for a lease as a remaining family member of the deceased resident of record. At a hearing, she testified that she didn't give up her old unit when she got married because she was worried that the marriage might not work out. But after moving into her new unit, she never returned to visit, live, or do anything at the old one. She further testified that it was clear to a housing inspector not only that she was living at the husband's unit, but also that she was her husband's wife. She stated that the inspector never told her that she had to fill out any forms, never told her that she wasn't allowed to live there, and never suggested in any way that there was any problem with her living there. She also testified the husband's grandchildren lived in the unit and that her husband wasn't aware of any problem with her living there. After her husband's death, she testified, she took over paying the rent and sent the rent check to NYCHA every month. She then stopped paying rent at the old unit, which she surrendered to NYCHA.
The hearing officer denied her a lease as a remaining family member. NYCHA approved the hearing officer's decision, and the woman appealed.
Ruling: The court sided with NYCHA.
Reasoning: The court found nothing wrong with the conclusions of the hearing officer that although the woman may have married the resident and resided in the unit, she simultaneously maintained her own NYCHA unit. The woman paid rent for the old unit and didn't give up her claims to it until more than one year after the resident's death, the court noted. NYCHA units may not be used for purposes of “security,” no matter how extenuating and sympathetic those claims, the court concluded. The 12-year period during which the woman maintained, but didn't reside, in her old unit, is a lengthy period of time during which a needy family on the waiting list for a NYCHA unit could have enjoyed the benefits of a home, the court stated.
The hearing officer fully considered the evidence that the housing inspector was aware of the wife's occupancy in the resident's unit. But the court upheld the hearing officer's finding that the evidence was insufficient to give notice to NYCHA. Therefore, the court concluded, NYCHA's determination should be upheld and the proceeding dismissed.
- In the Matter of the Application of Relly Adler v. New York City Housing Authority, March 2011