Are You Having Problems With Your Housing Authority or Subsidized Housing?

This article was produced by LARCC in cooperation with CLS, GHLA, NHLAA, and SLS.

Are You Having Problems With Your Housing Authority or Subsidized Housing?

What can I do if I have a disagreement or problem with the housing authority?

If you have tried to fix the problem and still disagree with the Housing Authority, you have the right to make a complaint by using the “grievance procedure.”

What is the grievance procedure?

A grievance is like a complaint. The 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 procedure.

When can I use the grievance procedure?

You might file a grievance if:

  • You have been denied public or subsidized housing.
  • Your rent has been increased unfairly.
  • The housing authority has not repaired bad conditions in your apartment.
  • You have been denied a transfer.
  • The housing authority won’t add someone to your lease.
  • You have been charged late fees when you have paid your rent on time.
  • Your lease has been terminated (for many but not all reasons).

You CANNOT file a grievance if you are being evicted for:

  • criminal activity that threatens other tenants or housing authority workers;
  • violent or drug related criminal activity;
  • 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 eviction proceedings have already begun, you will have to go to court and go through the court eviction process. The housing authority must prove that the criminal activity happened. If you need help with your eviction, see our pamphlet: http://ctlawhelp.org/self-help-guides/housing/eviction-lockouts-laws-connecticut

Note: You may be able to get legal help with your eviction. Call Statewide Legal Services at 1-800-453-3320.

Is there a deadline to file a grievance?

YES. Because you can lose your right to use the grievance procedure, you should start the grievance procedure right away. The length of time you have depends on what your problem is. Contact your housing authority for more information.

How do I file a grievance?

Step 1. Call your housing authority and ask how to file a grievance.

If your housing authority grievance procedure starts with an informal hearing…

  1. Ask for a hearing. Send a letter to your housing authority explaining your problem and asking for a hearing. Do this right away so that you do not miss the deadline. Keep a copy of your letter for your own records, and either mail the letter to the housing authority or bring it to the housing authority (and get a stamped receipt) before the deadline date.  You can use Letter A. The housing authority will send you a letter telling you when your hearing is.
  2. Prepare for your hearing.
    -
    Make an appointment to read your case file. Note anything negative in the file that the housing authority might use against you at the hearing.
    - Think about who you might want to bring to your hearing. You are allowed to bring witnesses that can tell the housing authority more about your problem. You can also bring someone for moral support.
    - Look for evidence to support you. You can bring any papers and photographs that you think might help you at the hearing.
  3. Go to your hearing.
    Tell the housing authority about your problem, and ask them to fix it. You can ask your witnesses questions, and show the housing authority any papers and photographs you brought. The housing authority will tell you what they plan to do about your problem.
  4. Read the summary. The housing authority will mail you a summary of the hearing. Read it carefully. If you are happy with what the summary says, your grievance procedure is over. If you think the summary is wrong or you are not happy with the summary, ask for a formal hearing.
  5. Ask for a formal hearing. If you are not happy with the outcome of your informal hearing, you will need to request a formal hearing right away. Your informal summary should explain how to request a formal hearing, and what the deadlines are. To request a formal hearing, you can send Letter B, to your housing authority. Keep a copy of your letter for your own records, and either mail the letter to the housing authority or bring it to the housing authority (and get a stamped receipt) before the deadline date. After you send Letter B, start at step 2 below.

If your housing authority grievance procedure starts with a formal hearing…

  1. Ask for a hearing. Send a letter to your housing authority explaining your problem and asking for a hearing. Do this right away so that you do not miss the deadline. Keep a copy of your letter for your own records, and either mail the letter to the housing authority or bring it to the housing authority (and get a stamped receipt) before the deadline date. You can use Letter A at the bottom of the page. The housing authority will send you a letter telling you when your hearing is.
  2. Prepare for your hearing.
    - If you haven’t already, make an appointment to read your case file. Note anything negative in the file that the housing authority might use against you at the hearing. Write down the names of the housing authority’s witnesses so you can prepare to ask them questions.
    - Think about who you might want to bring to your hearing. You are allowed to bring witnesses that can tell the housing authority more about your situation. You can also bring someone for moral support.
    - Make a list of questions you want to ask your witnesses and the housing authority’s witnesses.
    - Look for evidence to support you. You can bring any papers and photographs that you think might help you at the hearing.
  3. Go to your hearing. Tell the housing authority about your problem, and ask them to fix it. You can ask your witnesses questions and ask the housing authority’s witnesses questions. You can show the housing authority any papers or photographs you brought. The housing authority will tell you what they plan to do about your problem.
  4. Read the summary. The housing authority will send you a summary of the hearing. Read it carefully. If you are happy with what the summary says, your grievance procedure is over. If you are not happy with the summary, your options are usually limited. Call SLS for advice: (800) 453-3320

Important: if you think you have reached an agreement with the housing authority, always make sure to get that agreement in writing.

Housing Authority Grievance Letter A

Note: If you have asked the housing authority to make a repair and they have not done so, include in your letter that you want some or all of your rent money back because the Housing Authority hasn’t fixed the problem within a reasonable time.

Housing Authority Grievance Letter B

If the grievance procedure does not resolve your repair complaint, contact your local code enforcement office and see our booklet on repairs: http://ctlawhelp.org/tenants-rights-repairs-using-housing-code-enforcement-law

Important: You must keep paying your rent, even if housing authority hasn’t made repairs to your apartment, or you could be evicted.

What are my rights at the formal hearing?

At the hearing you have the right to:
1 Have an attorney, a tenant, or any other person represent you.
2. Keep the hearing private or open to the public--it’s your choice.
3. Present evidence and witnesses and question any of the housing authority’s witnesses.

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 rescheduled. 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.

What do I do if I have been denied public or subsidized housing?

If you are denied public or subsidized housing, you will receive a letter from the housing authority (or the landlord) that explains why you are denied. The letter will also explain how to request a hearing so you can appeal the denial.  To appeal the denial you must write a letter to the housing authority that says, “I request a hearing on the denial of my application for subsidized housing.”  Keep a copy of your letter for your own records, and either mail the letter to the housing authority or bring it to the housing authority (and get a stamped receipt) before the deadline date. Important: If you miss the deadline, you will not get a hearing and you will have to apply for housing again. After you send the letter, follow the grievance procedure described above.

If you have been denied housing because of bad credit:

You can get a free copy of the credit report the housing authority used to review your credit history. The denial letter should list the credit agency that the housing authority used. Contact that agency, get your credit report and review it. If there are mistakes, there are steps you can follow to correct them. Call Statewide Legal Services at 1-800-453-3320 and we can tell you how.

If you have been denied because of bad credit, and the information on your credit report includes mistakes, bring this up at your hearing. Tell them you have taken the steps to correct your credit report.

If you have been denied because of bad credit and the information on the credit report is accurate, talk about how you handle your money now in a way that makes you look good. For example, if you have a psychiatric disability (like bipolar disorder) and got into serious debt because you spent a lot of money when you were manic, but now you are taking medication and are getting your finances in order.

If you have been denied housing because of a criminal record:

Check your criminal record for accuracy.

You can get an unofficial copy of your record for free on line through the state of Connecticut Judicial Branch website at http://www.jud2.ct.gov/crdockets/SearchByDefDisp.aspx

You can get an official copy of your criminal record for $50 from the Connecticut State Police. You will have to submit your fingerprints on a special form (there is also a charge for this). This will take about two or three weeks.

If your most recent conviction is either a misdemeanor and more than 3 years ago, or a felony and more than 5 years ago, you may be eligible for a pardon.  Call Statewide Legal Services at 1-800-453-3320 for more information.

If you have been denied because of a past eviction:

Tell the housing authority the story behind that case – but keep it short. If you didn’t pay the rent because you couldn’t afford it, say that. Explain that having subsidized housing will make your life better because you will be able to afford your bills; and show how you were able to manage any other bills you were able to pay

Most importantly, DO NOT forget to ask for the hearing as soon as you get the letter telling you that you have been turned down – BEFORE THE DEADLINE!

For more information, contact:

Statewide Legal Services: 860-344-0380 (Central CT & Middletown) or 1-800-453-3320 (all other regions).

For people over 60, click here to get help from legal aid.

Not from Connecticut?

Most of the information on this web site is for Connecticut residents only.
Visit LawHelp.org to find a legal services program and/or a legal information web site in your area.