Justia Public Benefits Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
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Plaintiffs, tenants living in substandard conditions in a "Section 8" housing project, filed suit seeking to compel HUD to provide relocation assistance vouchers. The Fifth Circuit held that, because 24 C.F.R. 886.323(e) mandates that HUD provide relocation assistance, its alleged decision not to provide relocation vouchers to plaintiffs is not a decision committed to agency discretion by law and is therefore reviewable. Furthermore, the agency's inaction here constitutes a final agency action because it prevents or unreasonably delays the tenants from receiving the relief to which they are entitled by law. Therefore, the district court has jurisdiction over plaintiffs' Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and Fair Housing Act (FHA) claims and erred in dismissing those claims.However, the court agreed with the district court that plaintiffs failed to state a claim for which relief can be granted on their Fifth Amendment equal protection claim. In this case, plaintiffs failed to state a plausible claim of intentional race discrimination. Accordingly, the court reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Hawkins v. United States Department of Housing and Urban Development" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the district court reversing a transfer penalty imposed by the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services on David Pfoser, a disabled Medicaid recipient who resided in a long-term care facility, after he transferred partial proceeds from the sale of a house into a pooled special-needs trust, holding that Pfoser made a satisfactory showing that he intended to receive valuable consideration for his transfer of assets.State and federal law impose a penalty on recipients, like Pfoser, of Medical Assistance for Long-Term Care benefits if they transfer assets for less than fair market value, but no penalty is imposed if the recipient makes a satisfactory showing that he intended to dispose of the assets either at fair market value or for other valuable consideration. See Minn. Stat. 256B.0595, subd. 4(a)(4). The Commissioner affirmed the transfer penalty imposed on Pfoser. The district court reversed, concluding that Pfoser received adequate compensation in the form of his vested equitable interest in the trust assets. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that substantial evidence did not support the Commissioner's decision to uphold the penalty. View "Pfoser v. Harpstead" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff argued that the Housing Authority abused its discretion in terminating her participation in the Section 8 Housing Program in the absence of any fraud, and that the Housing Authority did not have the discretion to terminate plaintiff's participation in the Program based on a misreport.The Court of Appeal held that the Housing Authority may not terminate a participant from the Program for an immaterial misreport, but that a false answer to a question about marital status did not fall within that category. The court affirmed the trial court's finding that plaintiff's false statements support her termination from the Program even in the absence of fraudulent intent, and affirmed the trial court's judgment finding that adequate grounds existed to terminate plaintiff from the Program. The court directed the trial court to remand the case to the Housing Authority to consider whether to exercise its discretion to take into account other circumstances in determining the appropriate remedy for plaintiff's violations. View "Crooks v. Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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In February 2015, Johnson’s landlord under the Housing and Community Development Act Section 8 housing assistance program (42 U.S.C. 1437f(o)) served a “lease violation notice” informing Johnson that she had violated her lease by following another tenant to his apartment and using profanity. In June 2015, Landlord issued a “notice to cease” stating that management had received a complaint from a resident alleging that she had used pepper spray against him. On February 29, 2016, Landlord served a “ninety-day notice of termination of tenancy.” In June, when Johnson failed to vacate, Landlord filed an unlawful detainer action. In August, the action was settled by a stipulation; Landlord agreed to reinstate Johnson’s tenancy on the condition that she conform her conduct to the lease. Landlord retained the right to apply for entry of judgment based on specified evidence of breach. In October, Landlord applied for entry of judgment, claiming that Johnson violated the stipulation. Johnson was evicted in January 2017. In February, the Oakland Housing Authority, which administers the Section 8 program, terminated Johnson's benefits. The court of appeal found no violation of Johnson’s procedural due process rights in terminating her from the program. Johnson was given sufficient notice of the grounds for termination: she failed to supply the Authority with required eviction documentation; she committed and was evicted for serious repeated lease violations. The hearing officer did not abuse its discretion in refusing to excuse the violation. View "Johnson v. Housing Authority of City of Oakland" on Justia Law

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The Hayes family is a low-income family whose rent is subsidized by enhanced voucher assistance under the Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. 1437f(t) (Section 8). Enhanced vouchers exist to enable residents to “choose” to continue renting the “dwelling unit in which they currently reside.”because an ordinary voucher does not cover a tenant’s rent to the extent that it exceeds the applicable payment standard, and, following a valid opt-out, property owners are no longer subject to limitations on what they may charge for rent. The Hayes family's eligibility to receive enhanced vouchers is contingent upon their continued tenancy in a unit currently owned by Harvey. Harvey notified the Hayes family that he would not renew their lease. The Hayes family refused to vacate, arguing that as enhanced-voucher tenants, they have an enforceable “right to remain” in their unit as long as it is offered for rental housing. The district court granted Harvey summary judgment. The Third Circuit initially affirmed. On rehearing, the Third Circuit reversed. The statute’s plain language and history indicate that enhanced voucher holders may not be evicted absent good cause, even at the end of a lease term. The court remanded so that the district court may consider whether Harvey has good cause to evict. View "Hayes v. Harvey" on Justia Law

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Aponte moved into his mother's one-bedroom New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA)-owned apartment and cared for her until she died in 2012. Two requests for Aponte to be granted permanent permission to live with his mother were denied. After she died, Aponte requested to be allowed to lease her apartment as a "remaining family member." NYCHA denied his request, finding that Aponte lacked permanent permission to reside in the apartment; management properly denied such permission because Aponte's presence would have violated occupancy rules for overcrowding. A person lacking permanent permission to reside in an apartment is not eligible for RFM status. The Court of Appeals upheld the denial. Under its rules, NYCHA could not have granted Aponte permanent permission to reside in his mother's apartment, and thus could not have granted his request for RFM status. NYCHA's rules contemplate that a tenant may require a live-in home-care attendant, either for a transient illness or the last stages of life, and expressly allow for such an attendant as a temporary resident, even if that permission will result in "overcrowding," regardless of whether the attendant is related to the tenant. NYCHA's policy is not arbitrary and capricious for not allowing Aponte to bypass the 250,000-household waiting line as a reward for enduring an "overcrowded" living situation while caring for his mother. View "Aponte v Olatoye" on Justia Law

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The Hayes family is a low-income family whose rent is subsidized by enhanced voucher assistance under the Housing Act of 1937, 42 U.S.C. 1437f(t) (Section 8). Because an ordinary voucher does not cover a tenant’s rent to the extent that it exceeds the applicable payment standard, and, following a valid opt-out, property owners are no longer subject to limitations on what they may charge for rent, enhanced vouchers exist to enable residents to “choose” to continue renting the “dwelling unit in which they currently reside.” The Hayes family's eligibility to receive enhanced vouchers is contingent upon their continued tenancy in a unit currently owned by Harvey. Toward the end of their most recent lease term, Harvey notified the Hayes family that he would not renew their lease. The Hayes family refused to vacate the premises, arguing that as enhanced-voucher tenants, they have an enforceable “right to remain” in their unit as long as it is offered for rental housing. The district court granted Harvey summary judgment. The Third Circuit affirmed. The Act does not obligate property owners to renew enhanced-voucher tenancies after the initial lease term. View "Hayes v. Harvey" on Justia Law

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Neither the grant in an irrevocable trust of a right of occupancy and use in a primary residence to an applicant nor the retention of a life estate by the applicant in the applicant’s primary residence makes the equity in the home owned by the trust a countable asset for the purpose of determining Medicaid eligibility for long-term care benefits under the Federal Medicaid Act.At issue before the Supreme Judicial Court in these two cases was whether applicants were eligible for long-term care benefits under the Act Act where they created an irrevocable trust and deeded their home - their primary asset - to the trust but retained the right to use and reside in the home for the rest of their life. The Director of the Massachusetts Office of Medicaid (MassHealth) found that the applicants were not eligible for long-term care benefits. The superior court upheld MassHealth’s determinations. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the judgments in both cases because MassHealth found that the equity in both homes was a “countable” asset whose value exceeded the asset eligibility limitation under the Act. View "Daley v. Secretary of Executive Office of Health & Human Services" on Justia Law

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Cadillac Place (former General Motors Building), a Detroit office complex, is home to state offices, a court of appeals, a restaurant, a gift store, and even a barber shop. It is owned by Michigan Strategic Fund, a public entity, and leased by the state. Babcock, an attorney, s disabled due to Friedreich’s Ataxia, a degenerative neuromuscular disorder that impairs her ability to walk. She worked in Cadillac Place. Babcock alleged that its design features denied her equal access to her place of employment in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act , 42 U.S.C. 12132, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. 794(a). The Sixth Circuit affirmed dismissal. Babcock did not identify a service, program, or activity of a public entity from which she was excluded or denied a benefit. The court noted the dispositive distinction between access to a facility and access to programs or activities. Babcock only identified facilities-related issues. View "Babcock v. State of Mich." on Justia Law

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The Section 8 low-income housing assistance voucher program, 42 U.S.C. 1437f(o), is administered by public housing agencies such as Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA). Program regulations define “rent to [the] owner” as “[t]he total monthly rent payable to the owner under the lease for the unit. Rent to owner covers payment for any housing services, maintenance and utilities that the owner is required to provide and pay for.” Velez and Hatcher, voucher recipients, entered into one-year leases with K&D. The leases provide: “If Resident(s) shall holdover after the end of the term of this Rental Agreement, said holdover shall be deemed a tenancy of month to month and applicable month to month fees shall apply.” Velez entered into a month-to-month tenancy after her one-year term expired; Hatcher entered into month-to-month tenancies, and, later, a nine-month agreement. K&D charged fees of $35.00 to $100.00 per month. CMHA did not treat these short-term rental fees as rent under the voucher program. Velez and Hatcher were required to pay the fees and filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The court granted CMHA summary judgment, holding that the fees were not rent. The Sixth Circuit reversed. Recasting the charge as a short-term fee, rather than rent, does not change that it is consideration paid by the tenant for use of the rental unit. View "Velez v. Cuyahoga Metro. Hous. Auth." on Justia Law