A Guide to the Housing Authority Grievance Procedure
A Guide to the Housing Authority Grievance Procedure
Do you have a problem or disagreement with your public housing authority?
What can I do if I have a disagreement or problem with the housing authority?
If you have been unable to get the problem fixed or a disagreement resolved, you have the right to make a complaint by starting a "grievance procedure."
What is a grievance?
A grievance is like a complaint. You may file a grievance or complaint if the housing authority has done something against the rules in your lease or its own rules or they have threatened to terminate your lease. For example:
- increasing your rent unfairly
- not repairing bad conditions in your apartment
- denying a transfer
- not adding someone to your lease
- charging you late fees when you paid your rent on time
- terminating your lease (for many but not all reasons for termination).
What is a "grievance procedure"?
A grievance procedure is the official way you tell the housing authority what your complaint or problem is and what you would like the housing authority to do about it. Each housing authority has its own grievance procedures. Go to your housing authority office and ask for a copy of its grievance procedure. The grievance procedure tells you important things such as how to make a complaint and what the deadlines are for asking for meetings about your grievance.
Who can make a grievance complaint?
You can make a grievance complaint if you are a tenant. A tenant is any adult who lives in the apartment and signed the lease. If no one signed a lease, a tenant is the head of the household of the family living in the apartment (example: the mother or father). A tenant may file a complaint over conditions, even if he/she is accused of criminal activity, arguing with another tenant, or breaking the housing authority rules in some way.
Who cannot make a grievance complaint?
You CANNOT make a grievance complaint if you are being evicted for any of the following reasons:
- a criminal activity that threatens other tenants or housing authority workers;
- a violent or drug related criminal activity;
- any criminal activity that resulted in a felony conviction of a household member; or
- having a dispute with other tenants and not the housing authority.
If you cannot ask for a grievance hearing and the housing authority wants to evict you, then you will have to go to court and go through the court eviction process. The housing authority must prove that the criminal activity happened.
NOTE: You may be able to get legal help with your eviction. Call Statewide Legal Services at 1-800-453-3320.
Important: Be sure to read "Is there a deadline?" below.
How does the grievance procedure work?
You first ask for an informal conference in writing to see if the problem can be resolved. If you are satisfied with what happens at this meeting, you can stop there. If not, you can ask for a formal hearing in writing. You do not need a lawyer to help you if you follow the steps in this pamphlet. If you need help, contact your tenant’s association (if there is one) or Statewide Legal Services.
Step 1. Ask for an INFORMAL CONFERNCE in writing right away. Do not wait or you may lose your right!
- Write a letter telling your project manager or director what the problem is. In the letter, ask for an INFORMAL CONFERENCE. You can use Form A from the end of the pamphlet to do this.
- Make a copy of this letter and keep it in a safe place.? Hand the letter to your project manager or director and ask to have your copy date stamped and signed by the person receiving it.
- The housing authority will send you a letter telling you when your informal conference is.
Step 2. Get ready for the informal conference.
- If you think the housing authority has papers that can help you, call your worker and ask to see the papers and make copies before your informal conference. You have the right to look at and copy any record, document, or paper that the housing authority has about you.
- Find a witness or witnesses to bring with you to the conference. A witness can be someone who knows something about your problem and can tell the housing authority about it. A witness can also be a person who just watches and listens and can tell a hearing officer or a court about what he or she heard.
Step 3. Go to the informal conference.
- Make sure that you get to the conference on time.
- Tell the person from the housing authority what your problem is and what you want the housing authority to do.
- The person from the housing authority will tell you what the housing authority is going to do about your problem.
- If you agree with what the housing authority says it is going to do about your problem, the grievance procedure is over.
Step 4. After the informal conference, read the summary.
- A few days after the conference, the housing authority should send you a letter called a "summary." It says what happened at the conference and what the housing authority plans to do. The summary will explain how to ask for a FORMAL HEARING and the time limits for making the request.
- Read and follow the summary and directions carefully. Unless what the housing authority worker said at the conference is in writing, you cannot be sure it will happen. If you think the summary is wrong or is different from what you heard, ask for a formal hearing.
- If you like what happened at the informal conference and the housing authority does what it says it would, you do not need to do anything else. The grievance procedure can stop here.
Go to Step 5 (shown below) IF . . .
- you don’t agree with what the housing authority said or did during the informal conference, or
- if the housing authority does not do what it said it would.
What can if do if I am not happy with the results of the informal conference?
Step 5. Ask for a FORMAL HEARING.
You can ask for a formal hearing which is a meeting where a hearing officer will listen to both sides and make a decision about what the housing authority should do. Some public housing authorities use a hearing panel instead of a hearing officer. A public housing tenant may be required to be on the panel. This tenant panel member might want to talk to you about your grievance. If you talk with him/her and you believe that your grievance has been resolved, make sure to get the resolution in writing and signed by that tenant panel member.
NOTE: You can also ask for a formal hearing if the housing authority does not do what they promised to do in the summary.
To ask for the formal hearing:
- Write another letter telling your project manager or director what the problem is. In the letter, ask for a FORMAL HEARING. You can use Form B from the end of this packet to do this. Make a copy of the letter and keep it in a safe place.
- Then, read the summary directions to find who you should mail or give the letter to.
- The housing authority will write a letter to you telling you when your formal hearing is.
Step 6. Get ready for the formal hearing.
- Arrange for witnesses to come with you to the hearing.
- Make a list of questions that you want to ask your witnesses and the housing authority’s witnesses.
- Make sure that you have any papers or photographs that you think might help you at the hearing.
- If you have not looked at your case file, make an appointment to look at it. Read it carefully and make notes for yourself of anything negative about you that might be used against you at the hearing, including the names and addresses of witnesses. If you ask for information before the hearing, the housing authority cannot use anything it does not give you against you at the hearing.
Step 7. Attend the formal hearing.
- You will meet with people from the housing authority and a hearing officer (or hearing panel). The housing authority picks the person who will be the hearing officer. The hearing officer cannot be the person who the grievance is about.
- You will tell the hearing officer why you do not like what the housing authority decided at your conference.
- You can ask your witnesses questions. You can ask the housing authority’s witnesses questions.
- The hearing officer will listen to what you have to say and to what the housing authority has to say and then make a decision.
- If the hearing officer agrees with you, he or she will tell the housing authority to do what you want them to do.
- If the hearing officer agrees with the housing authority, you can take your grievance to court.
What are my rights at the formal hearing?
At the hearing you have the right to:
1. Have a fair hearing with a fair hearing officer or panel.
2. Have an attorney, a tenant, or any other person represent you.
3. Keep the hearing private or open to the public--it’s your choice.
4. Present evidence and witnesses and argue about your case.
5. Question any witnesses the housing authority presents.
6. Have a written decision based only on facts that are presented to the hearing officer at the hearing.
What happens if I do not go to the hearing?
It is very important that you go to your hearing. If you do not go, the hearing officer can decide to postpone your hearing or decide that you have lost your right to have a hearing.
As soon as you find out that you cannot go to a hearing, call the housing authority and ask to have it postponed. If the housing authority refuses to change the date of the hearing, send a friend to your hearing to explain why you could not go.
Is there a deadline to start a grievance procedure?
Because you can lose your right to a grievance procedure, you should report any grievances right away. The length of time you have depends on what your problem is as shown below.
- EVICTION: If you are being evicted, the housing authority has to send you a written notice of lease termination. This notice will tell you how much time you have to start the grievance procedure. At most housing authorities, you will usually have 10 to 30 days from the grievable event to file a grievance. Be sure to ask for the conference before the time written in the notice. If you do not get this written notice, you should ask for an informal conference as soon as you learn about the eviction.
If you write and ask for an informal conference in the time given in the notice, and if you ask for a formal hearing in the time given in the summary, then the housing authority can’t take you to court until you have gone through the entire grievance procedure and the hearing officer has decided the housing authority was right.
- DISABILITY ACCOMMODATION: The housing authority must provide changes in their rules and policies for tenants with disabilities when these changes are needed for these tenants to enjoy their apartment. These changes are known as "reasonable accommodations" and include things such as: allowing a pet for visual, hearing, or emotional support; larger doorways and lower cabinets for people with problems moving around; and installation of grab bars in the apartment. If you or a member of your household is disabled and needs a reasonable accommodation, you can ask for it from your property manger. Before asking for the accommodation, you should get a letter from your doctor that states your medical condition and explains why the accommodation is necessary. If you have been denied a reasonable accommodation, you should request a grievance hearing as soon as you know about the denial.
- OTHER GRIEVANCES: You may have a grievance for any reason other than eviction, for example, you want to stop the housing authority from charging you for repairs. For any other grievance, you should write a letter asking for an informal conference as soon as you find out about the housing authority’s action. Each housing authority has different time limits for different grievances, so it is best to contact them right away.
I think my apartment is unsafe, what can I do?
First, call your local housing code enforcement officer. (Look in the blue pages of the phone book or call your town hall). Then, if the housing authority has failed to keep your apartment in safe and healthy condition, you can ask for a rent abatement. A rent abatement is when the housing authority gives you either a part of (or all of) your rent money back because the housing authority has not fixed your apartment.
When can I ask for a rent abatement?
You can ask for a rent abatement when the housing authority does not keep your apartment in a decent, safe and healthy condition. If the housing authority will not fix things like broken windows or a leaky roof, or doesn’t give you enough hot water, then you may be able to get some of your rent money back. You can also ask for a rent abatement when the housing authority takes too long to fix something.
How do I ask for a rent abatement?
Follow the grievance procedure described in this pamphlet. The first step is to write a letter telling the housing authority about the bad conditions, how long you have had the problem and ask for an informal conference. Also, write that you are asking for a rent abatement. You can use Form C below.
Keep paying your rent. If you do not pay your rent, you could be evicted. If you win your grievance, the hearing officer will order the housing authority to give you back your money.
If your apartment is in very bad shape, you may want to bring a Payment into Court Action to force the housing authority to fix your apartment. For more information, see If Your Rental Unit Needs Repairs.
If the housing authority does not fix my apartment, can I stop paying rent?
NO. ALWAYS pay your rent by the 10th day of the month, unless the housing authority has agreed you can pay late. No matter what your problem is with the housing authority, always pay your rent on time. Even if your apartment is in very bad condition, if you do not pay your rent, you can be evicted. If you believe you are paying too much because the apartment is in such bad condition, ask for a rent abatement or bring a Payment into Court Action to force repairs.
This pamphlet was produced by the Legal Assistance Resource Center of CT in cooperation with Connecticut Legal Services, Greater Hartford Legal Aid, New Haven Legal Assistance Association, and Statewide Legal Services.
The information in this pamphlet is based on laws in CT as of April 2009. We hope that the information is helpful. It is not intended as legal advice for an individual situation. If you need further help and have not done so already, please call Statewide Legal Services (see above) or contact an attorney. Copyright: 4/2009
Statewide Legal Services: 860-344-0380 (Central CT & Middletown) or 1-800-453-3320 (all other regions).
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