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Public Housing Grievance Procedure

Authored By: Northwest Justice Project LSC Funded

6105EN - As a public housing tenant, you have the right to appeal many decisions or actions taken by the Housing Authority through its administrative Public Housing Grievance Procedure. Every Housing Authority is required by federal law to adopt a written public housing grievance procedure. A copy of the agency's grievance procedure should be posted in their office and available upon request.

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Should I read this?

As a public housing tenant, you have the right to appeal many decisions or actions taken by the Housing Authority (HA) through its administrative Public Housing Grievance Procedure. Under Federal law, every Housing Authority must adopt a written public housing grievance procedure.  A copy of the grievance procedure should be posted in their office and available upon request. 

When may I file a grievance?

You may use the grievance procedure to challenge most adverse decisions or actions taken by the Housing Authority.  This includes any disagreement you have with their action or failure to act in accordance with your lease or agency regulations that adversely affects your rights, duties, welfare, or status. 

In most cases, the Housing Authority must tell you about the procedure whenever it makes a decision related to your tenancy.  You can use this procedure even if the Housing Authority has not told you so.

You may use the grievance procedure to challenge the Housing Authority about

  • Its failure to make repairs

  • maintenance charges

  • late fees

  • its calculation of rent

  • its refusal to add household members

  • most evictions

You may not use the grievance procedure to:

  • resolve disputes between tenants that do not involve the Housing Authority

  • decide class grievances 

  • try to make policy changes

Can the Housing Authority ever deny me a grievance hearing?

Yes, if they are evicting you for activity that

  • threatens the health or safety of other tenants or the Housing Authority's employees OR

  • involves drug-related, criminal activity 

They must have a written grievance procedure that allows them to deny you a grievance hearing.  They must also provide certain information in the eviction notice. 
Even in these cases, the Housing Authority must still file an eviction suit in court against you and go to trial. (If you do not respond to the eviction lawsuit in a timely manner, you lose the right to fight the eviction in court.)

How does the grievance procedure work?

There are two steps: 

  • You file a grievance and meet with the Housing Authority to discuss the matter. 

  • If you cannot resolve the dispute that way, you may then request an informal hearing before an impartial, disinterested hearing officer or panel.  The hearing officer or panel has the authority to reverse the Housing Authority's decision.

There are deadlines for filing a grievance and requesting a hearing.  If you miss these deadlines, you might waive (give up) your right to challenge the Housing Authority's actions.

How do I present a grievance?

You must file a grievance within a reasonable period, preferably by the deadline stated in the Housing Authority's notice. You may present a grievance verbally, but it is better to put it in writing.  Keep a copy of the grievance. Ask the Housing Authority to date stamp it to show when you filed it.

You and the Housing Authority will then discuss the grievance to try to settle the matter without a hearing.  The Housing Authority must write up a summary of the meeting within a reasonable time or within the deadline stated in the agency's grievance procedure.  The summary should say:

  • who met

  • when the meeting happened

  • the proposed resolution

  • the specific reasons for it

The summary should also explain how to request a hearing if you are not satisfied with the meeting's result.

How do I request a hearing?

Give the Housing Authority a written request for a hearing by the deadline stated in the meeting summary.  The request should state

  • the reasons for the grievance
  • what action/relief you want

In most cases, you must first follow step one in "How do I Present a Grievance" before you can ask for a hearing.  A hearing officer or panel can waive this requirement where you show good cause for not doing so. 

If you do not request a hearing by the deadline set forth in the Housing Authority's notice or grievance procedure, the agency's decision will be final.  You may still contest the matter in court. 

Who will the hearing officer or panel be?

The Housing Authority must appoint an impartial hearing officer or hearing panel to decide the dispute.  The Housing Authority's grievance procedure should explain how it appoints the hearing officer or panel. 

Can the hearing officer be someone who works for the Housing Authority?

Under HUD regulations, the Housing Authority may have Housing Authority officers or employees be hearing officers if:

  • they did not make or approve the action under review AND
  • they do not work under the person who did

The Housing Authority should consult with any residents' organizations before appointing a hearing officer or panel and consider their comments.  You should file a written objection if you feel the hearing officer or panel cannot be fair.

Do I have any rights before the hearing?

Yes. Your rights include:

  • The right to review past hearing decisions in order to get your case ready

  • The right to examine before the grievance hearing any Housing Authority documents, including records and regulations, directly relevant to the hearing 

  • The right to copy any such documents at your expense

If the Housing Authority does not make a document available for examination after you ask it to do so, the agency may not rely on the document at the hearing and may not go forward with an eviction.

Before any hearing, you should review the tenant file. Make copies of all relevant documents.  These might include:

  • the lease

  • any written complaints

  • termination notices

  • payment reports

  • inspection reports

  • notes of conversations with agency staff

  • witness statements

  • police records

How will the hearing go?

The hearing should be informal. Both parties will have a chance to present their side of the story.  You still have the right to due process, though.  You also have these other rights:

  • The right to be represented by legal counsel or another person of your choice OR to represent  yourself 

  • The right to a private hearing 

  • The right to present evidence, arguments, and witnesses to support your side of the story

  • The right to refute the Housing Authority's evidence and to confront and cross-exam all witnesses 

  • If you are disabled, the Housing Authority must provide reasonable accommodations of the disability.  Examples: they may have to provide a qualified interpreter and/or an accessible hearing room. 

The hearing is not subject to the rules of evidence that apply to hearings in court. The hearing officer or panel must still ensure that you have a chance to confront and cross-examine all witnesses.  This requirement should keep the Housing Authority from relying on hearsay evidence (when one person tells what s/he heard someone else say) to prove its case, without giving you a chance to confront and cross-examine the person who made the original statement.  The rules of evidence do not apply, but the hearing officer or panel may take into account the type of evidence offered in determining what weight to give it.

The hearing should take place at a time and place that is reasonably convenient for both sides.  You should get reasonable written notice telling you the time, place, and procedures governing the hearing.  If you do not appear for the hearing, the hearing officer or panel may postpone the hearing for good cause or find that you waived (gave up) your right to the hearing.

What happens after the hearing?

The hearing officer or panel must write up their decision and reasons for it within a reasonable time after the hearing.  The decision should state the facts presented that were the basis upon which they made the decision.  The hearing officer or panel must make a decision based solely and exclusively upon the facts presented at the hearing.  They cannot rely on any documents or evidence not presented at the hearing. 

The hearing officer or panel must send the decision to you and the Housing Authority. The decision is binding on the Housing Authority unless the HA's Board of Commissioners formally decides that the decision is against applicable Federal, State or local law, including HUD regulations or requirements of their contract with HUD. This publication does not tell you how to go to the Board of Commissioners.

No matter what the outcome of the hearing, you still have the right to fight the matter in court.

What if I need legal help?

CLEAR is Washington's toll-free, centralized intake, advice and referral service for low-income people seeking free legal assistance with civil legal problems. 

  • Outside King County: Call 1-888-201-1014 weekdays from 9:10 a.m. until 12:25 p.m.  CLEAR works with a language line to provide free interpreters as needed to callers.  If you are deaf or hard of hearing, call 1-888-201-1014 using your preferred TTY or Video relay service.

  • King County: Call 211 for information and referral to an appropriate legal services provider Monday through Friday from 8:00 am – 6:00 pm. You may also call (206) 461-3200, or the toll-free number, 1-877-211-WASH (9274). 211 works with a language line to provide free interpreters as needed to callers. Deaf and hearing-impaired callers can call 1-800-833-6384 or 711 to get a free relay operator, who will then connect you with 211. You can also get information on legal service providers in King County through 211's website at www.resourcehouse.com/win211/.

  • Persons 60 and Over: Persons 60 or over may call CLEAR*Sr at 1-888-387-7111, regardless of income.


6105EN

(Permission for copying and distribution granted to the Alliance for Equal Justice and to individuals for non-commercial use only.)

Last Review and Update: Jun 09, 2013