Setting Up or Changing a Grievance Procedure

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Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

This section explains some of the ways you can set up and change a grievance procedure.

How are public housing grievance procedures established or changed?

There are state and federal rules about how to establish grievance procedures. Both require that tenants have input into the process

State public housing

Housing authorities are required to negotiate the creation of a grievance procedure with local tenant organizations.1 If there is no local tenant organization, a housing authority must still provide for tenant input. A procedure must be prompt, reliable, and comply with basic hearing, notice, and due process requirements. The Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities (EOHLC), the state agency that oversees state public housing, must approve all new or amended grievance procedures.2You can contact EOHLC’s Division of Public Housing at 617-573-1150 to find out whether your housing authority’s state grievance procedures has been approved by EOHLC.3

If your local tenant organization believes that changes need to be made in your grievance process, the organization may at any time submit a proposal to the housing authority.4This can be done during the state annual plan process or before or after.

Federal public housing

If your grievance process is not working well, the yearly public housing plan process can provide tenants with an opportunity to negotiate and recommend changes.5 If a housing authority wants to make any changes to the grievance procedure, it must provide all tenants and resident organizations with at least 30 days notice of any proposed changes and provide tenants with an opportunity to submit written comments.6


How are hearing officers and panels selected?

Grievance hearings must be conducted by either a hearing officer or a hearing panel. The hearing officer or members of the hearing panel must be impartial. Impartial means that the person may not be someone, or their subordinate, who held your informal settlement conference or who was involved in the issues being grieved in any way.7

State public housing

Usually, grievance hearings are conducted by a 3-member grievance panel. There are two situations when this is not the case:

  • The housing authority is using an older grievance procedure, approved by EOHLC, which provides for a larger panel, and decides to keep that system; or
  • The housing authority makes a case that, despite good-faith efforts, a 3-member panel cannot be promptly chosen, and a single hearing officer should handle grievances.8 To have a single hearing officer a housing authority must receive permission from EOHLC and must submit its nominations for hearing officers to each local tenant organization.

For a 3-member grievance panel, one member of the panel shall be chosen by the housing authority, one member of the panel shall be chosen by the local tenant organization, and the third member must be selected by the other two panel members. The term of a panel member cannot go beyond seven years.9

Federal public housing

Hearing officers or hearing panel members appointed by the housing authority may not be persons who made or approved the matter being grieved or a subordinate of such persons.10

The method of appointment of the hearing officer must be stated in your lease and be either:

  • A method approved by the majority of the tenants in any building, group of buildings, development, or group of developments who voted in an election or meeting of tenants held for that purpose, or
  • Selection of a person (who can be a housing authority employee or officer) in the manner required by the grievance procedure. The housing authority must consider comments received from the local tenant organizations before appointment of each hearing officer or panel member. Any comments or recommendations received from tenant organizations must be considered by the housing authority before the appointment.11

EOHLC has regulations regarding recognition and rights of local tenant organizations. See 760 C.M.R. § 6.09.


760 C.M.R. § 6.08(1) and (2). Note: In 1998, EOHLC changed its grievance regulations for state public housing, but allowed housing authorities to continue to use their previously approved grievance procedures, so long as the housing authority initiated measures to achieve "material compliance" with the revised regulations.


Despite this requirement, it is worth noting that DHCD may not have the approved grievance procedure on file. See also How do I find out what the grievance procedure is in my development?


If the PHA is relying on a waiver from DHCD to have a different grievance procedure (such as a consolidated grievance procedure that meets both state and federal requirements), this must be listed in its state agency plan under waivers.


24 C.F.R. § 903.7(f).


24 C.F.R. § 966.52(c).


See 24 C.F.R. § 966.53(e) and 760 C.M.R. § 6.00 (definition of hearing officer and hearing panel).


760 C.M.R. § 6.08(3)(b)(3).


See Public Housing Notice 2000-03, Part B, issued by EOHLC to all local housing authorities on July 3, 2000.


24 C.F.R. § 966.53(e).


24 C.F.R. § 966.3


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