Public Housing Grievance Procedure
Authored By: Northwest Justice Project
Public housing tenants: Learn more about your right to appeal many decisions or actions taken by the Housing Authority. #6105EN
- Should I read this?
- When can I file a grievance?
- What kinds of issues is the grievance procedure for?
- When can I not use the grievance procedure?
- Can the Housing Authority deny my request for a grievance hearing?
- How does the grievance procedure work?
- How do I ask for a grievance?
- How does the discussion with the Housing Authority work?
- How do I request a hearing?
- Who conducts the hearing?
- Can the hearing officer work for the Housing Authority?
- Do I have any rights before the hearing?
- How should I get ready for the hearing?
- When will the hearing take place?
- What if I miss the hearing?
- What rights do I have at the hearing?
- How will the hearing go?
- What is due process?
- What happens after the hearing?
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.
*Every Housing Authority must have a written public housing grievance procedure. They should post a copy of the grievance procedure in their office. They should give you a copy if you ask for one.
You can use the grievance procedure to challenge most of the Housing Authority’s adverse decisions or actions. This includes anything the HA has done, or failed to do in accordance with your lease or HUD 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 HA has not told you that you can.
You can use it to challenge the Housing Authority about
repairs it has not made
its calculation of rent
its refusal to add household members
You cannot use it to:
resolve a dispute with another tenant
decide class grievances
try to make policy changes
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.)
There are two steps:
You file a grievance and meet with the Housing Authority to discuss the matter.
If you cannot resolve it that way, you can ask for an informal hearing before an impartial hearing officer or panel. They might reverse the Housing Authority’s decision.
*If you miss the deadlines for filing a grievance and requesting a hearing, you might not be able to challenge the Housing Authority’s actions.
You must file a grievance either verbally or in writing by the deadline stated in the Housing Authority’s notice. It is better to ask in writing. Bring a witness with you when you file your grievance request with the HA.
Keep a copy of the grievance for your own records. Ask the Housing Authority to date-stamp it to show when you filed it.
After filing your grievance, you meet with the Housing Authority to try to settle the matter without a hearing. The HA must write up a summary of the meeting by the deadline stated in their grievance procedure. It should say:
when you met
the proposed resolution
the specific reasons for it
how to request a hearing if you are still not satisfied
Usually, you must have first met with the HA to discuss the matter before you can ask for a hearing. A hearing officer or panel can waive (cancel) this requirement if you prove you had good cause for not having the discussion.
You must make a written hearing request to the HA by the deadline stated in the meeting summary. The request should state
what action/relief you want
If you miss the deadline for making a hearing request, the HA’s decision will be final. You can still fight the matter in court.
The Housing Authority must appoint a hearing officer or hearing panel to decide the dispute. The grievance procedure should explain how the HA chooses the hearing officer or panel.
Yes, but only if both these are true:
They did not make/approve the action under review.
They do not work under the person who did.
The HA should consult with any residents’ organizations before appointing a hearing officer or panel. You should file a written objection if you feel the hearing officer/panel cannot be fair.
The right to review past hearing decisions
The right to examine before the grievance hearing any HA documents, including records and regulations, directly relevant to the hearing
The right to copy documents at your expense
If the Housing Authority does not make a document available for examination after you ask it to do so, they cannot rely on the document at the hearing and may not go forward with an eviction.
You should review your tenant file. Make copies of all relevant documents. These might include:
any written complaints
notes of conversations with HA staff
You should also think about any witnesses that you could ask to come to the hearing. They must have direct info about the dispute.
It should take place at a time/place reasonably convenient for both sides. You should get reasonable written notice telling you the time, place, and procedures governing the hearing.
The hearing officer/panel might postpone the hearing for good cause OR find that you waived (gave up) your right to the hearing.
You have the right to due process (see “What is Due Process,” below), and these other rights:
The right to have a lawyer or nonlawyer represent you, OR to represent yourself.
The right to a private hearing.
The right to present evidence, arguments, and witnesses.
The right to refute the Housing Authority’s evidence and cross-examine witnesses.
If you have a disability, 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.
Each party will present their side of the story. The hearing should be informal. The rules of evidence that apply to court hearings do not apply here.
You have the right of due process in this hearing. This means the hearing officer/panel must ensure that you have a chance to cross-examine all witnesses. This should keep the Housing Authority from relying on hearsay evidence (one person tells what they heard someone else say) to prove its case, without letting you question the person who made the original statement.
- The hearing officer or panel may take into account the type of evidence offered in determining what weight to give it.
The hearing officer/panel must write up their decision and reasons for it within a reasonable time. The decision should state the facts they used to make the decision. They cannot rely on any documents/evidence not presented at the hearing.
The hearing officer/panel must send the decision to you and the Housing Authority. The decision is generally binding on the Housing Authority.
*No matter the outcome of the hearing, you still have the right to fight the matter in court.
This publication provides general information concerning your rights and responsibilities. It is not intended as a substitute for specific legal advice.
This information is current as of October 2017.
© 2017 Northwest Justice Project — 1-888-201-1014.
(Permission for copying and distribution granted to the Alliance for Equal Justice and to individuals for non-commercial use only.)