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Matthews v. Housing Authority of Baltimore City

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

March 26, 2014

DARLENE MATTHEWS
v.
HOUSING AUTHORITY OF BALTIMORE CITY

Wright, Matricciani, Hotten, JJ.

OPINION

Page 853

[216 Md.App. 574] Wright, J.

Appellant, Darlene Matthews (" Darlene" ), appeals her termination from the Housing Choice Voucher Program [216 Md.App. 575] (" HCVP" ) by appellee, the Housing Authority of Baltimore City (" HABC" ), after the HABC learned that her husband, Gerald Matthews, Sr. (" Gerald" ), had listed her HCVP residence as his mailing address, and it concluded that Gerald was residing in her household as an unauthorized occupant. Darlene received a HCVP termination notice dated April 4, 2012, and subsequently requested an informal hearing, which was held on May 16, 2012. By letter dated May 31, 2012, the HABC Hearing Officer informed Darlene that the HABC's decision to terminate would be upheld.

On June 14, 2012, Darlene filed a Petition for Administrative Mandamus in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, asking the circuit court to review the HABC Hearing Officer's decision. Following a hearing on December 11, 2012, the court affirmed the HABC's decision. This timely appeal followed.

Questions Presented

Darlene asks:

1. Did the HABC Hearing Officer err as a matter of law when she concluded that allowing a non-household member to use the subsidized unit's address to receive mail was a HCVP violation?

2. Does the HABC termination hearing record lack substantial evidence to support a finding that [Gerald] was living in [Darlene's] unit as an unauthorized occupant?

In its brief, the HABC initially responds by arguing that this Court is " without jurisdiction to hear th[is] appeal" pursuant to Md. Code (1973, 2013 Repl. Vol.), § 12-302(a) of the Courts & Judicial Proceedings Article (" CJP" ). We disagree as to the jurisdictional issue and, upon review of the merits of the case, reverse the Hearing Officer's decision.

Facts and Procedural History

The facts of this case are undisputed.[1] Darlene and Gerald married in August 2002. A few months later, they separated [216 Md.App. 576] and Gerald moved out of Darlene's home

Page 854

at Chapel Apartments, 3221 Esther Place, Baltimore City. In 2004, when Chapel Apartments was sold, Darlene received a Section 8[2] voucher through the HABC's HCVP. Until late 2011, her participation in the HCVP was without incident.

On December 6, 2011, Darlene went to the HABC and requested that her son be removed from her HCVP household. At the same time, she asked that Gerald be added to the voucher because they had reconciled. Gerald " signed some papers, including a Judicial Information System Screening Form, a Personal Declaration Form, an Authorization for the Release of Information/Privacy Act Notice, and a Citizenship Verification form," allowing the HABC to conduct a criminal background check.

By letter dated April 4, 2012, the HABC notified Darlene that her participation in the HCVP would be terminated " effective May 5, 2012." (Emphasis omitted). The letter went on to state, in pertinent part:

The reason for the termination is Tenant Non-Compliance-Violation of Family Obligations/Unauthorized Occupant.
[216 Md.App. 577] . . . A background check from the Maryland Judiciary Case Search on Gerald Matthews Sr. lists his address as 3221 Esther Place, Baltimore, MD on three different occasions; January 5, 2004, January 3, 2011, and February 1, 2011.[3] All of the dates listed are incidents that happened prior to your attempt to add Gerald Matthews Sr. onto your subsidy. You failed to report to our office that Gerald Matthews Sr. reside [sic] ...

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