Getting a Grievance Decision

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By
Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
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When do I get a decision?

After a hearing, a hearing officer or panel decides. This decision must be based solely on the evidence that you and the housing authority presented at the hearing and on any information provided after the hearing that was requested by the hearing officer or panel. The hearing officer or panel may also take note of any relevant laws, regulations, or housing authority rules and policies in making the decision, which is why it is important to make reference to any of these if they support your position.

The decision must be in writing and dated. It must state at least three things:

  • what facts a hearing officer or panel felt were true,
  • what the decision is, and
  • the reasons for the decision.

For state public housing, the hearing officer must provide a copy of the decision to the housing authority within 14 days after the hearing or as soon as “reasonably possible” after that. The housing authority must then “forthwith” mail a copy of the decision to you.1 The regulations do not define what these terms mean.

For federal public housing, the hearing officer must provide a copy of the decision to the housing authority within a “reasonable time” after the hearing. The hearing officer must then send a copy of the decision to both you and the housing authority.2

Note: 

For state public housing, the housing authority must keep copies of all grievance decisions on file (with names and identifying references deleted) and make them available to the public upon request.  For federal public housing, the housing authority must keep a copy of the decision in your folder. The housing authority must also keep a log of all hearing officer decisions and make that log available if the hearing officer, you, or your representative asks for it.3

Can I challenge or appeal a grievance decision?

State public housing

State regulations provide that either you or the housing authority have the right to ask the housing authority’s Board of Commissioners to review a grievance decision in most cases.4This is called an appeal. The only time that you cannot appeal a grievance hearing is if a hearing officer or panel approved the termination of your lease. You do not have to move, however, until a court orders you to. Look here for more information on evictions. 

Note: 

The Boston Housing Authority does not have a Board of Commissioners, so grievance appeals go to the administrator or the person she chooses.5

To file an appeal, a tenant or housing authority must submit a written letter to the housing authority’s Board of Commissioners (or for the Boston Housing Authority, the appropriate administrator) within 14 days of mailing or other delivery of the hearing officer’s or panel’s decision. An appeal can be sought if you or the housing authority believe that the decision was not supported by the facts or did not correctly apply applicable laws, regulations, rules, or policies, or that the matter was not something subject to the grievance procedure. See the Sample Appeal Letter.

The Board holds a meeting at which you and the Housing Authority are permitted to make oral presentations and submit documentation. The Board may also permit the hearing officer or panel to make a presentation. The Board shall then promptly decide whether to uphold, set aside, or modify the grievance. The Board of Commissioners must notify you in writing of its decision and of the specific reasons for the decision. If the Board does not issue a decision within 45 days of the date that a review was requested, the Board’s decision, when it is
issued, must specify a reason showing that there was no undue delay. If a Board of Commissioners makes a significant change in the hearing decision, you have the right to ask the state Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities (EOHLC) to review the Board’s decision. (EOHLC is the state agency that oversees state public housing.) An example of a significant change would be if you won before the hearing officer or panel, and the Board of
Commissioner then decides in favor of the housing authority. To file an appeal with EOHLC, you must send a written letter addressed to the Secretary of EOHLC stating why the Board’s decision was improper. (See Sample EOHLC Appeal Letter.) You must send this letter within 14 days of mailing or delivery of the Board’s decision. At the same time you send this letter to DHCD, you should send a copy to the housing authority. EOHLC is required to review the Board’s decision and issue a written decision upholding, setting aside, or modifying the decision of the Board.6

A case could be brought in court after EOHLC issues a decision, but time deadlines would apply.7

Federal public housing

In federal public housing, there is no stated process for the housing authority or a tenant to appeal a grievance decision to the Board of Commissioners or any other agency. However, federal rules state that a housing authority is not bound by a grievance decision if the Board of Commissioners decides and promptly informs the parties that the matter was not grievable or the decision was contrary to applicable law, in which case the grievance decision becomes non-binding (not enforceable).8 This should mean that either the tenant or the housing authority could make a written request to the Board of Commissioners to set aside the
decision. Tenants in federal public housing do not have a right to ask the state Department of Housing and Community Development or HUD to review a Board decision, but a case may be able to be brought in court.9

Opening meeting law
Under the state’s open meeting law, when the Board of Commissioners hears an appeal of a grievance hearing decision, its meeting must be open to the public. If the Board of Commissioners refuses to hold an open meeting on the appeal, you may need to contact your local district attorney and ask him or her to enforce the open meeting law. The district attorney can take legal action to request that a new meeting be held that complies with the open meeting law.10

Endnotes
Endnotes
1:

760 C.M.R. § 6.08(4)(g)

2:

24 C.F.R. §§ 966.56(b)(5), 966.57(a).

3:

760 C.M.R. § 6.08(4)(g); 24 C.F.R. §966.57(a).

4:

760 C.M.R. § 6.08(4)(h).

5:

See St. 1989, c.88. For other housing authorities, prior to DHCD’s regulations being revised in 1998, tenants were allowed to seek Board review in all cases, but the housing authority could do so only where it could show that the decision was contrary to law or arbitrary. In addition, prior to 1998, lease termination cases could be reviewed by the Board. If your housing authority’s grievance procedures still contain the prior standards, these govern.

6:

760 C.M.R. § 6.08(4)(i).

7:

See G. L. c. 30A, § 14 (30 days of EOHLC’s final decision). If it was a case that could not be appealed to EOHLC, then certiorari deadlines (60-day statute of limitation) would apply.

8:

24 C.F.R. § 966.57(b).

9:

Judicial review would likely be governed by certiorari 60-day statute of limitation unless the tenant can establish a federal law violation, which may bring the case within the three-year statute of limitation under 42 U.S.C. 1983.

10:

The state open meeting law is M.G.L. c. 30A , §§ 18-25 .

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