The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) is a government agency that handles national laws, policies, and programs that relate to housing necessities. HUD is also responsible for enforcing housing regulations and continuously finding ways to improve living conditions.
One of its primary purposes is to provide affordable housing. It does this through several of its HUD government housing programs, including:
- Public housing: HUD created a federal law known as the “HOME Investment Partnership Act.” The Act provides block grants in order to fund affordable housing for low income residents. For instance, if a person does not earn over a certain amount of income, then they may qualify for public housing.
- HUD apartments: There are several other ways that HUD funds affordable housing. One such method is through HUD apartments, or low rent housing. The way this works is that the government will give apartment owners money in exchange for having them lower rents. The apartments with reduced rents will be given to people who do not earn a certain amount of income, similar to what was described above for public housing.
- Another low income program that HUD offers is Section 8 housing. Section 8 is essentially a voucher system. The government will supply a person who qualifies with a voucher to pay for a large portion of their rent. The remaining rent is then covered by HUD or the government sends money to a local housing agency who will use it to pay the landlord.
- Other means of financial assistance: There are a number of financial assistance programs or resources offered under HUD, such as loans, mortgages, grants, and assistance for homelessness. HUD also provides fair housing education materials to protect the general public. Lastly, some financial assistance programs may be offered directly through a local housing agency within a person’s community.
What Rights Come with Housing Provided by HUD?
Persons living in HUD assisted housing enjoy rights that are similar to those of private tenants. The following is a list of some of the HUD housing programs tenants’ rights, which generally include:
- The right to live in safe and sanitary housing: This right is also known as the “implied warranty of habitability”. This warranty is guaranteed by law and can be found in all residential leases (e.g., houses, apartments, etc.). The warranty states that the premises must be in fit and livable conditions for human habitation, and that it will continue to remain in that condition throughout the duration of the lease.
- Some examples of what is considered a “habitable condition” include having an operational bathroom and toilet, electricity that works, and that the water from faucets is drinkable.
- Right to minor repairs: Although both state laws and the terms of one’s lease may change what repairs this right covers, a landlord is generally liable for minor repairs. If the landlord is responsible for a minor repair, then the tenant also has a right to have that repair made in a timely fashion.
- Reasonable and written notice of non-emergency access to the residence: Both private residents and HUD tenants have a right to reasonable and written notice if the landlord intends to access the home for non-emergency purposes. With the exception of emergencies, a landlord must provide notice to the tenant at least 24 hours prior to entering the premises. (Note, that HUD inspections do occur regularly).
- Various other rights: HUD tenants also enjoy the right to organize and participate in protected tenant activities without fear of retaliation from management or their landlord. For instance, a HUD tenant may post materials in a common area to inform other residents of their housing rights.
How Does the HUD Educate Potential Home Buyers?
When a person buys a home, they will typically receive a HUD Special Information Booklet. This booklet helps the buyer to understand important terms and provides them with useful instructions regarding the home buying process. As of 2015, this booklet also goes by the name, “Home loan toolkit: a step-by-step guide.”
The reason why this booklet is given to homebuyers is to educate them about some of the major issues that arise during the purchase of a home, and also for their own protection. By providing answers to many common questions, the information in this booklet reduces the chances of a real estate broker or lender taking advantage of the buyer.
Additionally, while the advice contained in the booklet may vary by jurisdiction due to differences in state laws, it generally will include the following:
- Provides samples of standard real estate forms and explains what each of them means, and how to spot forms or form questions that are not considered standard;
- Explains the nature and purpose of every cost associated with the homebuying process;
- Describes unfair practices and/or unreasonable charges; and
- Details the options available in regard to types of real estate services.
Again, this does not cover all of the valuable information that these booklets contain. Thus, it is strongly recommended that a homebuyer review this booklet before purchasing a new home.
How Do I Sue the Housing Authority?
The Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (“FHEO”) is the government agency that is responsible for enforcing fair housing laws and creating related policies. The FHEO is also the agency that oversees and conducts investigations for complaints against the HUD.
If a person wishes to sue the HUD, the first thing they must do is file a complaint either by calling the Housing Discrimination Hotline or going directly to HUD’s website and clicking on their link for filing a complaint.
The complaint will require certain information, such as name of the complainant, their address, the date of the incident, a short description of what happened, and the name of the person or entity that caused the complaint to arise.
Once this is submitted, the FHEO will conduct an investigation that includes gathering evidence pertaining to the incident. However, they will only review issues that violate the Fair Housing Act, or are discriminatory and are considered civil rights violations. After the FHEO completes its investigation, it will send the individual a report of its findings.
Also, at the same time as the ongoing investigation, the FHEO will attempt to get the parties to settle by having them sign an agreement. If the parties sign it, then the FHEO will continue monitoring the issue, but will close the current investigation. If they do not, or if the FHEO does find the HUD is at fault, then the government may bring a case against the HUD.
Although the above information is a general overview of what happens when a person files a complaint, the procedure will change based on the type of complaint and the circumstances of the individual matter. For instance, Fair Housing Act complaints can be heard before a HUD administrative law judge, in a civil trial before a federal district court, or if all administrative avenues have been exhausted, then a party may file a private lawsuit.
However, if the party has already had a hearing before an administrative law judge, or if they have already signed an agreement, then they may not bring a private action.
Finally, it is important to keep in mind that there are strict time limits for filing a complaint and/or a lawsuit. Thus, the person should submit their complaint as close as possible to the incident.
Do I Need an Attorney if I Have Issues with My Housing Rights?
If you believe that your housing rights are being violated, then you may want to consider contacting a local real estate attorney for further legal assistance; preferably, one who has experience with affordable housing issues.
An affordable housing attorney will be able to determine whether your landlord and/or management company is in compliance with all federal and state housing regulations. Your attorney can also discuss whether your rights were in fact violated, and if so, they can provide you with the best legal options that would help you resolve your matter.
In addition, it is strongly recommended that you speak to a real estate attorney if a broker or lender requests anything unusual from you, such as the race or religion of the other persons who will be living in your residence.