When a Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) recipient passes away the local housing authority is responsible for identifying a new head-of-household and completing an interim recertification to preserve the family's housing. John Batanchiev, Staff Attorney in the Hempstead Civil Unit recently assisted a family to restore their Section 8 voucher after the local housing authority, Hempstead's Department of Urban Renewal, failed to act after repeated notifications that the head-of-household had passed away.
In the fall of 2019, a recent widow sought help from Nassau Suffolk Law Services after Urban Renewal ignored her attempts to notify them of her husband's passing. In December 2019, Batanchiev provided Urban Renewal with the head-of-household’s death certificate. However, Urban Renewal took no action. After several more requests that Urban Renewal complete an interim recertification and transfer the voucher to the widow, our office asked for an informal hearing in May 2020. With many agencies operating differently as a result of the pandemic, Urban Renewal still failed to provide any official response.
During the summer of 2020, Urban Renewal announced that their Section 8 files would be transferred to the Nassau County Office of Housing (“Nassau County”). Batanchiev contacted Nassau County to have them complete the interim recertification, only to be informed that the file had been terminated months earlier.
Urban Renewal claimed that the family’s Section 8 program was terminated in a notice it sent in March 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic. However, neither Batanchiev, his clients, nor the clients' landlord received or were previously aware of the termination notice, despite their repeated attempts to communicate with Urban Renewal about the family's voucher.
Batanchiev wrote to Nassau County and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) identifying a number of reasons why the family’s Section 8 file should be restored:
Failure to Follow Interim Recertification Procedures: Urban Renewal failed to follow proper procedures for interim recertification under 24 C.F.R. § 982.516(c)(2) and its own Administrative Plan.
Failure to Provide Notice: Urban Renewal failed to serve the family with a pre-termination notice prior to terminating their Section 8 program. The local housing authority had no proof of how the supposed pre-termination notice was sent nor proof that it was delivered to the family.
Notice Failed to Provide Time for Hearing: The supposed pre-termination notice was defective because it did not provide the family time to request an informal hearing, as Urban Renewal's own Administrative Plan required.
Notice Failed to State Reason for Termination: The supposed pre-termination notice was also defective because it failed to state the basis for the termination. A pre-termination “notice must . . . [c]ontain a brief statement of reasons for the decision.” 24 C.F.R. § 982.555(c)(2)(i). The notice must describe the nature of the evidence against the voucher recipient, so that they can effectively rebut that evidence.
Housing Assistance Payments (HAP) Terminated Prematurely: Section 8 regulations require housing authorities to continue to make HAP payments while a termination is pending. While Urban Renewal claimed that the family's Section 8 program was terminated in April 2020, it stopped making HAP payments in February 2020 even before supposedly sending the pre-termination notice.
No Pre-termination Hearing: The housing authority failed to provide an informal hearing before the termination became effective despite the family’s request for an informal hearing.
Nassau County responded that they did not have the authority to restore the voucher since they were not responsible for the file at the time of termination. However, in consultation with NY Homes and Community Renewal (NY-HCR), HUD agreed to reinstate the voucher based on the numerous irregularities in the case.