Section 8 Tenant Seeks Class Action Status In Lawsuit Alleging Little Rock Housing Authority Illegally Yanked Her Rent Subsidy Voucher (& That Of 964 Other Families) Based Solely On Landlord's Uncontested Word In Vacate Notice, Violating Federal Statutes & Constitutional Due Process Protections
- Attorneys representing a housing tenant in an eviction dispute with the Metropolitan Housing Alliance(1) in Little Rock have filed a motion seeking class-action status.
Brenda Glover was stripped of her Section 8 housing voucher by the housing authority last year when her landlord sent her a 10-day eviction notice.
She argued that she had proof her rent had already been paid in an agreement signed by her landlord, but the housing authority didn't reinstate her benefits until she filed suit against them in November 2014.
Even though the alliance reinstated her housing voucher that November, her attorneys moved forward with the lawsuit against the alliance in federal court because, according to documents provided by the housing agency, it had stripped 964 other families of their Section 8 benefits since October 2011 based solely on having received a notice-to-vacate letter.
Glover's attorney, David Slade, with Carney, Bates & Pulliam PLLC,(2) called the agency's eviction policy "pervasive."
"MHA's policies and procedures allow families to lose their benefits based upon the uncontested word of tenants' landlords. These landlords are not present at pre-termination hearings, so tenants may never directly challenge their word through cross-examination. Nonetheless, MHA treats this hearsay evidence as dispositive, and any attempt by the plaintiff or class members to challenge the notice to vacate is futile," the original lawsuit complaint says.
The authority's Executive Director Rodney Forte and the agency's attorney have not answered phone messages or emails seeking comment on the lawsuit since it was filed last year. Forte didn't return messages Monday seeking comment on the class-action motion.
Slade filed his motion for class-action status Wednesday.
In Glover's situation, the lawsuit states that her landlord signed an agreement to take August's rent out of her security deposit because she was moving to a smaller unit in September. The landlord then refused to refund the remainder of the deposit, so Glover filed a complaint with the attorney general's office, the lawsuit says.
After hearing about the complaint, the landlord reneged on the agreement and gave Glover a 10-day eviction notice.
The housing authority used that notice as the sole reason for terminating Glover's Section 8 voucher, despite the fact that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has regulations that prohibit conditioning a termination based on Arkansas' criminal eviction statute, the lawsuit says.
The motion for class-action status argues that the Little Rock housing agency has a practice of treating housing voucher recipients in that way and that deprives them of their protections under federal statutes and their right to due process under the Constitution.
The proposed class is everyone receiving Section 8 housing vouchers from the agency. Slade's law firm has records of the names and addresses of those recipients, the motion says.
The lawsuit seeks clarification on whether it is legal for the housing agency to terminate vouchers based on a landlord's eviction notice without a judicial order, to send termination letters without providing a reason for the termination, to shift the burden of proof at informal hearings requiring voucher recipients to disprove the allegations against them, and to conduct informal hearings with decision-makers who have not received adequate training.
There was no time frame specified for a judge to rule on the request for class-action status.
"I expect that we would have an order either granting or denying the motion no later than the spring," Slade said by email Monday.
For the lawsuit, see Glover v. Housing Authority of the City of Little Rock, Arkansas.
In a somewhat similar story involving a housing authority that got slammed by a federal appeals court for violating the due process rights of poor tenants when screwing around with their housing subsidies, see Federal Appeals Court: L.A. Housing Authority Ripped Off 20,000 Section 8 Tenants By Reducing Their Rent Subsidies Without First Properly Notifying Them; Notice Sent To Recipients Was So Confusing & Inadequate That The Authority Violated Their Due Process Rights.
(2) Carney Bates & Pulliam is a for-profit law firm based in Little Rock, Arkansas that specializes in class action litigation in areas from consumer protection to environmental hazards to civil rights to data privacy.