Friday, October 28, 2016

Little Rock Housing/Rent Subsidy Program Administrator Admits No Wrong Doing, But Agrees To Cough Up $24K+ To Settle Suit Alleging It Had Improperly Revoked Section 8 Renter's Voucher Based Solely On Landlord's Faulty Eviction Notice; Class Action Hot Water Dodged Despite Claim By Tenants' Lawyer That 964 Other Renters Were Similarly Screwed Over

In Little Rock, Arkansas, ArkansasOnline reports:
  • Little Rock's Metropolitan Housing Alliance will pay nearly $25,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a former housing-assistance recipient, according to an agreement finalized [last month].

    In 2014, Brenda Glover sued the agency in federal court, saying it violated the U.S. Constitution and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development regulations when it ended her Section 8 housing-voucher benefits.

    The plaintiff and her attorneys, of the Carney Bates & Pulliam law firm, said the housing alliance revoked her voucher based solely on having received a faulty notice-to-vacate letter from her landlord.

    Glover said she had proof that her rent had already been paid under an agreement signed by the landlord but that the housing alliance didn't consider that before terminating her benefits.

    Glover's housing assistance was reinstated shortly after the lawsuit was filed, but by the next month her attorneys sought to take the case to class-action status, alleging that "MHA's policies and procedures allow families to lose their benefits based upon the uncontested word of tenants' landlords," the lawsuit says.

    The plaintiff's attorneys had found 964 other cases of Section 8 benefits being stripped by the Metropolitan Housing Alliance since October 2011 based solely on notice-to-vacate letters.

    In 2015, federal Judge Leon Holmes denied class-action status in an order stating that Glover's dispute was unique and should be resolved individually.

    Tuesday's settlement awarded Glover $2,217 to cover out-of-pocket costs caused by the sudden displacement and $22,500 in attorney fees, according to court records. The settlement also stipulates that the agreement is a "compromise of disputed claims" and that neither party admits "any liability or wrongdoing."

    "When we brought this case, we wanted to bring it as a class action because based on our client and our preliminary FOIA, we were led to believe there was a systemic problem," Glover's attorney David Slade said, referring to a request for agency data under the state's Freedom of Information Act. "We thought that it could be addressed on a class-wide basis and we might be able to affect some change at MHA."

    Housing alliance Executive Director Rodney Forte said [], "I'm pleased that we were able to come to an amicable decision on this case."

    Since the lawsuit, Glover has exited the agency's voucher program and now receives benefits through the North Little Rock Housing Authority. Glover, who was 53 when the lawsuit was filed, plans to graduate from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in December, Slade said.

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