Complaints, Grievances, and Appeals

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[24 CFR 966.50 - 966.57]  

INTRODUCTION

The hearing requirements defined in HUD regulations are applicable to participating families who disagree with an action, decision, or inaction of the Housing Authority. This Policy describes the procedures to be used when families disagree with a Housing Authority decision. It is the policy of the Housing Authority to ensure that all families have the benefit of all protections due to them under the law.  

Grievances shall be handled in accordance with the Housing Authority’s approved Grievance Procedures.  

A. COMPLAINTS

The Housing Authority will respond promptly to all complaints.  Anonymous complaints are checked whenever possible. The Housing Authority does require that complaints be put in writing in order to be fully investigated.  

Complaints from families.  If a family disagrees with an action or inaction of the Housing Authority, complaints will be referred to the Director of Housing Management.  Complaints regarding physical condition of the units may be reported by phone to the  Maintenance Department. 

Complaints from staff. If a staff person believes that a family is violating or has violated a lease provision or is not complying with program rules, a referral will be made to the Director of Housing Management.  

Complaints from the general public. Complaints or referrals from persons in the community in regard to the Housing Authority or a family will be referred to the Director of Housing Management.   

B. APPEALS BY APPLICANTS  

Applicants who are determined ineligible, who do not meet the Housing Authority’s admission standards, or who are denied admission because  the Housing Authority does not have an appropriate size and type of unit in its inventory will be given written notification promptly, including the reason for the determination. 

Ineligible applicants will be promptly provided with a letter detailing their individual status, stating the reason for their ineligibility, and offering them an opportunity for an informal hearing. 

Applicants must submit their request for an informal hearing in writing to the Housing Authority within 21 calendar days from the date of the notification of their ineligibility.  

If the applicant requests an informal hearing, the Housing Authority will provide an informal hearing within 30 calendar days of receiving the request. The Housing Authority will notify the applicant of the place, date, and time. 

Informal hearings will be conducted by a representative of the Housing Authority. The person who is designated as the Housing Authority representative cannot be the person who made the determination of ineligibility or a subordinate of that person. 

The applicant may bring to the hearing any documentation or evidence s/he wishes and the evidence along with the data compiled by the Housing Authority will be considered. 

The Housing Authority representative conducting the hearing will make a determination based upon the merits of the evidence presented. Within 30 working days of the date of the hearing, the Housing Authority representative will provide a written decision to the applicant  and will place a copy of the decision in the applicant's file. 

The grievance procedures for Public Housing residents do not apply to Housing Authority determinations that affect applicants.

C. APPEALS BY RESIDENTS

Grievances or appeals concerning the obligations of the resident or the Housing Authority under the provisions of the lease shall be processed and resolved in accordance with the Grievance Procedure of the Housing Authority, which is in effect at the time such grievance or appeal arises.

D. HEARING AND APPEAL PROVISIONS FOR "RESTRICTIONS ON ASSISTANCE TO NON-CITIZENS"

Assistance to the family may not be delayed, denied or terminated on the basis of immigration status at any time prior to the receipt of the decision on the INS appeal.

Assistance to a family may not be terminated or denied while the PHA hearing is pending but assistance to an applicant may be delayed pending the PHA hearing.

INS Determination of Ineligibility

If a family member claims to be an eligible immigrant and the INS SAVE system and manual search do not verify the claim, the PHA notifies the applicant or tenant within ten days of their right to appeal to the INS within 30 days or to request an informal hearing with the PHA either in lieu of or subsequent to the INS appeal.

If the family appeals to the INS, they must give the PHA a copy of the appeal and proof of mailing or the PHA may proceed to deny or terminate. The time period to request an appeal may be extended by the PHA for good cause.

The request for a PHA hearing must be made within 14 days of receipt of the notice offering the hearing or, if an appeal was made to the INS, within 14 days of receipt of that notice.

After receipt of a request for an informal hearing, the hearing is conducted as described in the "Grievance Procedures" section of this chapter for both applicants and participants. If the hearing officer decides that the individual is not eligible, and there are no other eligible family members the PHA will:

  • Deny the applicant family.
  • Defer termination if the family is a participant and qualifies for deferral.
  • Terminate the participant if the family does not qualify for deferral.

If there are eligible members in the family, the PHA will offer to prorate assistance or give the family the option to remove the ineligible members.

All other complaints related to eligible citizen/immigrant status:

If any family member fails to provide documentation or certification as required by the regulation, that member is treated as ineligible.

If all family members fail to provide, the family will be denied or terminated for failure to provide.

Participants whose termination is carried out after temporary deferral may not request a hearing since they had an opportunity for a hearing prior to the termination.

Participants whose assistance is pro-rated (either based on their statement that some members are ineligible or due to failure to verify eligible immigration status for some members after exercising their appeal and hearing rights described above) are entitled to a hearing based on the right to a hearing regarding determinations of Tenant Rent and Total Tenant Payment.

Families denied or terminated for fraud in connection with the non-citizens rule are entitled to a review or hearing in the same way as terminations for any other type of fraud.

E. GRIEVANCE PROCEDURES

Definitions

Grievance. Any dispute which a resident may have with respect to a Housing Authority action or failure to act in accordance with the individual resident’s lease or Housing Authority regulations which adversely affect the individual resident’s rights, duties, welfare, or status.

Complainant. Any resident whose grievance is presented to the Housing Authority at the central office or HCV office as part of the informal hearing process.

Complainant’s Representative. An attorney, resident or any other person designated by the Complainant in writing to assist the Complainant in the presentation of the grievance. Any notice or decision required to be delivered or sent to the Complainant shall be concurrently sent or delivered to the Complainant’s Representative.

Hearing Officer/Hearing Panel. A person or persons selected in accordance with this grievance procedure to hear grievances and render a decision with respect thereto.

Tenant/Resident. A lessee who resides in the unit and who executed the lease with the Housing Authority or the remaining head of household of any resident family residing in housing accommodations owned or leased by the Housing Authority.

Resident Organization. An organization of public housing tenants with duly elected officers of a site or sites within the housing authority’s jurisdiction.

Elements of Due Process. An eviction action or a termination of tenancy in a State or local court in which the following procedural safeguards are required.

Adequate notice to the resident of the grounds for terminating the tenancy and for eviction;

Opportunity for the resident to examine all relevant documents, records, and regulations of the Housing Authority prior to the trial for the purpose of preparing a defense;

Right of the resident to be represented by counsel;

Opportunity for the resident to refute the evidence presented by the Housing Authority including the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses and to present any affirmative legal or equitable defense which the resident may have;

A decision on the merits of the case.

Applicability

This Grievance Procedure applies to all individual grievances, except any grievance concerning a termination of tenancy or eviction that involves:

Any activity, not just criminal activity, that threatens the health, safety, or right to peaceful enjoyment of the premises of other residents or Housing Authority employees; or

Any violent or drug-related criminal activity on or off such premises; or

Any activity resulting in a felony conviction.

The Housing Authority’s Grievance Procedure shall not be applicable to disputes between tenants not involving the Authority or to class grievances. The Grievance Procedure is not intended as a forum for initiating or negotiating policy changes between a group or groups of residents and the Authority’s Board of Commissioners.

Pre-Hearing Procedures

Informal Conference Procedures

Any grievance shall be presented orally or in writing to the Housing Authority central office or HCV office. Written grievances must be signed by the complainant. The grievance must be presented within fourteen (14) calendar days after the resident receives notice of the proposed adverse action. It may be simply stated, but shall specify:

The particular grounds upon which it is based,

The action requested; and

The name, address, and telephone number of the complainant, and similar information about the complainant's representative, if any.

The purpose of the initial discussion is to discuss and to resolve the grievance without the necessity of a formal hearing. The informal discussion must take place within seven (7) calendar days after presentation of the grievance, unless an extension of time is agreed to by both parties.

Within ten (10) calendar days after conclusion of the informal discussion, a summary of this discussion will be given to the complainant by a Housing Authority representative. One copy will be filed in the resident’s file.

The summary will include: names of participants, the date of the meeting, the nature of the proposed disposition, and the specific reasons for the disposition. The summary will also specify the steps by which a formal hearing can be obtained.

Dissatisfaction with Informal Conference

If the complainant is dissatisfied with the proposed disposition of the grievance, s/he shall submit a written request for a hearing within twenty-one (21) calendar days of the date of the summary of the informal meeting.

The request for a hearing must be presented to the Housing Authority’s central office or to the HCV office.

The request must specify the reason for the grievance request and the relief sought.

Failure to Request a Formal Hearing

If the complainant does not request a formal hearing within 21 calendar days, s/he waives his/her right to a hearing, and the Housing Authority’s proposed disposition of the grievance will become final. This section in no way constitutes a waiver of the complainant's right to contest the Housing Authority’s disposition in an appropriate judicial proceeding.

Informal Hearing Prerequisite

In order to obtain a formal grievance hearing, all grievances first must be presented orally or in writing pursuant to the informal procedure described above; provided, however, that if the Complainant can show good cause why he or she failed to proceed in accordance with the informal procedure to the hearing officer or panel, the provisions of this paragraph may be waived by the hearing officer or panel.

Reasonable Accommodation

The Housing Authority will provide reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities to participate in the hearing. Reasonable accommodation may include qualified sign language interpreters, readers, accessible locations or attendants. If the resident is visually impaired, any notice to the resident which is required under this Policy, must be in an accessible format. The Housing Authority must be notified within five (5) calendar days of the scheduled time if special accommodations are required.

Selection of Hearing Officer and Panel

A grievance hearing which does not involve the termination of the Complainant’s tenancy shall be conducted by an impartial Hearing Officer. A grievance which does involve the termination of the Complainant’s tenancy shall be conducted by a three person Hearing Panel.

The three individuals who will serve as Hearing Officers or on a Hearing Panel shall be appointed by a committee which consists of the Housing Authority Executive Director, one member of the Housing Authority Board of Commissioners, and one resident representative selected by the Board of the Public Housing Association of Residents. The committee shall also appoint two additional individuals to serve as alternates, in the event one or more of the first three appointees are unable to participate in a grievance. All appointments shall require the concurrence of all three members of the committee.

The three individuals appointed by the committee, and the two alternates, shall each serve a two (2) year term, and shall be eligible for reappointment for one additional term. The three individuals will all be members of the hearing panel, and shall alternate hearing grievances which require a single Hearing Officer.

Procedures to Obtain a Hearing

Scheduling of Hearing

The formal hearing before the hearing officer or panel shall be scheduled promptly for a time and place reasonably convenient to both the Complainant and the Housing Authority, and shall be held within 21 calendar days from the request for a hearing, unless good cause exists for an extension of that time period. The Complainant and the Housing Authority shall be given written notice of the date, time and place of the hearing.

If either party believes that rescheduling or postponement of the hearing is necessary, a request should be made to the hearing officer or panel as far in advance of the hearing as circumstances allow. The hearing officer or panel may, with good cause, promptly reschedule the hearing for a time and place reasonably convenient to both parties.

If the complainant or the Housing Authority fails to appear within 30 minutes of the scheduled time, the hearing officer or panel may make a determination to postpone the hearing for not to exceed five (5) business days or may make a determination that the party has waived his right to a hearing. Both the complainant and the Housing Authority shall be notified of the determination by the hearing officer or panel. A determination that the complainant has waived his right to a hearing shall not constitute a waiver of any right the complainant may have to contest the Housing Authority’s disposition of the grievance in an appropriate judicial proceeding.

Escrow Deposit

Before a hearing is scheduled in any grievance involving an amount of rent the Housing Authority claims is due, the complainant shall pay to the Housing Authority all rent due and payable as of the month preceding the month in which the act or failure to act took place.

The complainant shall thereafter deposit the same amount of the monthly rent in an escrow account each month until the complaint is resolved by decision of the hearing official or panel.

The Housing Authority may waive these escrow requirements in extenuating circumstances.

Unless so waived, failure to make the required escrow payments shall result in termination of the grievance procedure.

Failure to make such payments does not constitute a waiver of any right the complainant may have to contest the Housing Authority’s disposition of the grievance in any appropriate judicial proceeding.

Hearing Procedures

The complainant shall be afforded a fair hearing and be provided the basic safeguards of due process to include:

The opportunity to examine and to copy before the hearing, at the expense of the complainant, all documents, records and regulations of the Housing Authority that are directly relevant to the hearing. Any document not so made available after request by the complainant may not be relied upon by the Housing Authority at the hearing.

The Housing Authority shall also have the opportunity to examine and to copy at the expense of the Housing Authority all documents, records and statements that the family plans to submit during the hearing to refute the Housing Authority’s inaction or proposed action. The Housing Authority shall be entitled to a continuance if the Complainant relies on any documents which were not made available to the Housing Authority.

The right to a private hearing unless otherwise requested by the complainant.

The right to be represented by counsel or other person chosen as a representative.

The right to present evidence and arguments in support of the complaint, to controvert evidence presented by the Housing Authority , and to confront and cross-examine all witnesses upon whose testimony or information the Housing Authority relies; and

The right to a decision based solely and exclusively upon the facts presented at the hearing.

If the hearing officer or panel determines that the issue has been previously decided in another proceeding, a decision may be rendered without proceeding with the hearing.

At the hearing, the complainant must first make a showing of an entitlement to the relief sought and thereafter the Housing Authority must sustain the burden of justifying the Housing Authority action or failure to act against which the complaint is directed.

The hearing shall be conducted by the hearing officer or panel as follows:

Informal: Oral and documentary evidence pertinent to the facts and issues raised by the complaint may be received without regard to admissibility under the rules of evidence applicable to judicial proceedings;

Formal: The hearing officer shall require the Housing Authority, complainant, counsel, and other participants and spectators to conduct themselves in an orderly manner. The failure to comply with the directions of the hearing official to maintain order will result in the exclusion from the proceedings, or a decision adverse to the interests of the disorderly party and granting or denial of the relief sought, as appropriate.

The complainant or the Housing Authority may arrange, in advance and at the expense of the party making the arrangement, for an audiotape or transcript of the hearing. Any interested party may purchase a copy of such transcript.
 
Decisions of the Hearing Officer or Hearing Panel

The hearing officer or panel shall give the Housing Authority and the complainant a written decision, including the reasons for the decision, within 30 calendar days following the hearing. The Housing Authority will place one copy in the resident’s files. The written decision will be sent to the Complainant’s address provided at the hearing, and to the Housing Authority.

A copy of such decision, with all names and identifying references deleted, shall also be maintained on file by the Housing Authority and made available for inspection by a prospective complainant, his or her representative, or the hearing officer or hearing panel.

The decision of the hearing officer shall be binding on the Housing Authority which shall take all actions necessary to carry out the decision, unless the Housing Authority’s Board of Commissioners determines within a reasonable and promptly notifies the complainant of its determination that:

The grievance does not concern the Housing Authority action or failure to act in accordance with or involving the complainant's lease or Housing Authority regulations which adversely affect the complainant's rights, duties, welfare or status;

The decision of the hearing officer is contrary to applicable Federal, State, or local law, HUD regulations or requirements of the Annual Contributions Contract between HUD and the Housing Authority.

A decision by the hearing officer or Housing Authority Board of Commissioners in favor of the Housing Authority or which denies the relief requested by the complainant in whole or part shall not constitute a waiver of, nor affect in any manner whatever, the rights of the complainant to a trial or judicial review in any proceedings which may thereafter be brought in the matter.

Time Limits

All time limits set forth in this Procedure are binding on both parties, unless an extension of time is agreed to by both parties. The failure of one party to meet a time limit set forth in this Procedure shall result in a decision in favor of the other party, unless the Housing Authority employee hearing the informal grievance, the Hearing Officer or the Hearing Panel concludes that there was good cause for the failure to meet the prescribed time limit.

Housing Authority Eviction Actions

If a resident has requested a hearing in accordance with these duly adopted Grievance Procedures on a complaint involving a Housing Authority notice of termination of tenancy, and the hearing panel upholds the Housing Authority action, the Housing Authority shall not commence an eviction action until it has served a notice to vacate on the resident.

In no event shall the notice to vacate be issued prior to the decision of the hearing panel having been mailed or delivered to the complainant.

Such notice to vacate must be in writing and specify that if the resident fails to quit the premises within the applicable statutory period, or on the termination date as stated in the notice of termination, whichever is later, appropriate action will be brought against the complainant. The complainant may be required to pay court costs.