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Jennings v. Housing Authority of Baltimore City

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Northern Division

March 10, 2015

RENEE JENNINGS, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
HOUSING AUTHORITY OF BALTIMORE CITY, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

WILLIAM D. QUARLES, Jr., District Judge.

Renee Jennings[1] sued the Housing Authority of Baltimore City ("Housing Authority")[2] for illegally terminating her participation in the Housing Authority's voucher program. ECF No. 2. Pending are the parties' cross motions for summary judgment, the Plaintiffs' motion to file a surreply, and the Housing Authority's motion to strike. No hearing is necessary. Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014). For the following reasons, the Housing Authority's motion for summary judgment and the Plaintiffs' motion to file a surreply will be granted; the Housing Authority's motion to strike and the Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment will be denied.

I. Background[3]

The Housing Authority administers the federally funded Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher ("HCV") program, which provides rent subsidies to low-income tenants in Baltimore City. See ECF No. 33, Ex. 1 ¶¶ 2-4; Ex. 1A. The program permits the Housing Authority to terminate participants in the program if they violate "family obligations." 24 C.F.R. § 982.551. Under federal regulations, "the members of the [Section 8] household may not engage in drug-related criminal activity or violent criminal activity or other criminal activity that threatens the health, safety, or right to peaceful enjoyment of other residents and persons residing in the immediate vicinity of the premises." 24 C.F.R. § 982.551(1). Chapter 15 of the Housing Authority's Administrative Plan[4] further states:

Assistance will be terminated for participants who have been arrested [or] convicted... for drug-related criminal activity, violent criminal activity or other serious criminal activity during participation in the program and within the last three (3) years prior to the date of the notice to terminate assistance....
If any member of the household violates the family obligations by engaging in drug-related criminal activity, violent criminal activity or other serious criminal activity, the [Housing Authority] will terminate assistance.
In appropriate cases, the [Housing Authority] may permit the family to continue receiving assistance provided that family members determined to have engaged in the proscribed activities will not reside in the unit....

See Housing Authority of Baltimore City's Administrative Plan § 15-6, 15-7.

Jennings and her family have been part of the HCV program since 2003. See ECF No. 33, Ex. 1B. Between October 2008 and December 2011, the Housing Authority subsidized Jennings's rent at 900 Allendale Street. See ECF No. 33, Ex. 1B; Ex. 1J. On her Housing Assistance Payments ("HAP") Contract for the Allendale address, Jennings listed her household members as James Barrett, Jr. (son), Tyniquia Jones (daughter), and Donald Cassall, III (son). See ECF No. 33, Ex. 1J. When she recertified for the program in 2008 and 2009, Jennings included Barrett on her personal declaration form. See ECF No. 33, Ex. 1C.

On February 21, 2010, Barrett was arrested and charged with the assault on Erika Wilson at 800 Allendale Street. See ECF No. 31, Ex. F. On April 7, 2010, Barrett was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana near the family's home. See id. On June 12, 2010, Barrett was arrested and charged with assaulting Jennings in their home. See id. All charges were later nolle prossed. See ECF No. 31, Ex. J.

In October 2011, Jennings applied for a new HCV voucher so the family could move to a new address.[5] See ECF No. 31, Ex. A. On October 7, 2011, Jennings signed the new voucher which reminded Jennings of the family obligations under the program, including the requirements that the family "[p]romptly notify the [Housing Authority] in writing if any family member no longer lives in the unit, " and that "[a]ny information the family supplies must be true and complete." See id. at 1-2.

On November 18, 2011, Barrett was detained pending trial on an attempted murder charge. See ECF No. 31, Ex. C. Barrett was later convicted and sentenced to 60 years in prison. See id.

On December 19, 2011, Jennings filed a new Family Status Composition Form during her HCV recertification. See ECF No. 33, Ex. 1C. Jennings listed Barrett as a member of her household and stated that her family status had not changed. See id. The Housing Authority used Barrett to calculate the family income for the new voucher, and issued a voucher for a four-bedroom apartment because Jennings had a four-person family. See ECF No. 33, Exs. 1E, 1K. On the federal housing report, Barrett is included as "Member number 02" of the "MTW Household."[6] See ECF No. 33, Ex. 1K.

On January 6, 2012, Jennings entered into a lease agreement with Dominion Properties, LLC ("Dominion") for a residence at 3407 Royston Avenue.[7] See ECF No. 31, Ex. B. On January 9, 2012, the Housing Authority entered into an HCV contract with Dominion to subsidize Jennings's rent.[8] See ECF No. 33, Ex. 1F.

On May 4, 2012, the Housing Authority sent Jennings a Notice to Terminate Housing Assistance Payments. ECF No. 31, Ex. F. The notice informed Jennings that the Housing Authority had "[r]ecently... received police reports from the Baltimore City Police Department" about the three incidents with Barrett in 2010. See id. Because the police reports showed a drug-related crime and crimes of violence, the Housing Authority was terminating the Jennings family from the program effective June 5, 2012 for violating family obligations. See id. On May 5, 2012, Jennings requested an informal hearing about the termination.[9] ECF No. 31, Ex. G.

On May 29, 2012, an informal hearing was held before Serena Campbell. See ECF No. 31, Ex. K. The Housing Authority presented evidence including its version of the lease with Dominion, Jennings's personal declarations including Barrett as a household member, and the police reports of the 2010 incidents. See ECF No. 31, Exs. J, K. Jennings and her sister testified that Barrett was not guilty of any of the 2010 incidents, and he was being framed on the murder charge. See id. Jennings stated that Barrett had never lived at the Royston Avenue address because of his incarceration, but "she will continue to support her son and always allow him a place to stay in her home." See id. In her notes during the hearing, Campbell determined that Barrett did live at the Royston ...


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