United States District Court, D. Maryland
THOMAS J. BECKMAN, Plaintiff,
MONTGOMERY COUNTY HOUSING OPPORTUNITIES COMMISSION, Defendant.
Timothy J. Sullivan United States Magistrate Judge
stipulation of the parties, the Court conducted a one-day
bench trial on September 23, 2019.
to Rule 52 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court
must make specific findings of fact and state conclusions of
law separately in any action tried without a jury. In doing
so, the Court must appraise the testimony and demeanor of the
witnesses, assess and evaluate the credibility of the
witnesses, weigh the evidence, and choose among conflicting
inferences and conclusions. In doing so, and to comply with
the Rule, the Court “need only make brief, definite,
pertinent findings and conclusions upon the contested
matters, as there is no need for overelaboration of detail or
particularization of facts.” Wooten v.
Lightburn, 579 F.Supp.2d 769, 772 (W.D. Va. 2008). Rule
52 does not require the court to make findings on all facts
presented or to make detailed evidentiary findings; if the
findings are sufficient to support the ultimate conclusion of
the court they are sufficient. Darter v. Greenville Comm.
Hotel Corp., 301 F.2d 70, 75 (4th Cir. 1962).
on an evaluation of all of the evidence in the record,
including the exhibits admitted by the plaintiff and the
defendant, the testimony of the witnesses, the inferences to
be drawn from the evidence, and the arguments of the parties,
I make the following findings of fact and conclusions of law:
FINDINGS OF FACT
all times relevant to this case, Plaintiff Thomas Beckman
(“Mr. Beckman”) was the owner of a property
rented to a family (the “family”) that received a
rental subsidy through the family's participation in
Montgomery County's Housing Choice Voucher Program.
Plaintiff and Defendant Montgomery County Housing
Opportunities Commission (the “HOC”) entered into
a contract titled “Housing Assistance Payment
Contract.” I will refer to this as the “HAP
Contract.” The signed version of the contract has been
lost by both parties, but the parties stipulated that they
were bound by the contract and that the terms of the contract
are standard. A copy of the HAP Contract is filed at ECF No.
72-3 and was introduced as Joint Exhibit 1.
Initially, Mr. Beckman charged the family monthly rent in the
amount of $2, 571. In the second year of the family's
tenancy, Mr. Beckman charged monthly rent in the amount of
$2, 700, which the HOC determined to be a reasonable rent
HOC made annual adjustments to the utility allowance for
properties across the region. The utility allowances used by
the HOC in this case were correct.
relevant provisions of the HAP Contract provide that the HOC
will determine the amount of the family's monthly housing
assistance payment “in accordance with HUD requirements
for a tenancy under the voucher program” and that
Defendant will notify the family tenant and the owner of any
changes in the amount of the housing assistance payment. I
will refer to the housing assistance payment as the
“subsidy.” The acronym “HUD” refers
to the United States Department of Housing and Urban
HOC's calculation of the subsidy was at all relevant
times governed by Section 982 of Title 24 of the Code of
Federal Regulations. In addition, the HOC was required to
comply with its own Administrative Plan. Chapters 6 and 7 of
the HOC's Administrative Plan (“Administrative
Plan”) specifically address the HOC's calculation
of a tenant family's subsidy.
HOC's Administrative Plan is the governing document that
provides how the HOC will administer the Housing Choice
Voucher Program, see 24 C.F.R. § 982.1(a)(1),
in accordance with HUD requirements. The Administrative Plan
has been approved by the HOC's Board of Commissioners and
by HUD. A central purpose of the Administrative Plan is to
state how the HOC will administer the discretionary program
requirements of the Housing Choice Voucher Program. The
Administrative Plan was created to comply with the
requirements listed in 24 C.F.R. § 982.54.
determine the appropriate subsidy for the family, the HOC was
required to make several calculations.
begin, the HOC calculated the “gross rent” as the
sum of the contract rent ($2, 700 at the times relevant to
Mr. Beckman's breach of contract claim) and the standard
utility allowance ($435 at all relevant times).
HOC also calculated the “gross family income.” To
calculate gross family income, the HOC added together all
income received on behalf of the family other than the income
that is excluded under 24 C.F.R. § 5.609. Gross family
income is calculated on an annual basis.
Administrative Plan (Chapter 6, Section D) permits the HOC to
estimate annual income by averaging known sources of income
that vary to compute an annual income or by annualizing
current income. In this case, the HOC annualized the family
members' current income at the time that various
examinations were conducted to come up with an anticipated
Chapter 7 of the Administrative Plan sets forth the
procedures that the HOC follows to verify information related
to the calculation of the subsidy, including family income,
allowable deductions, and changes in family composition.
verify information about a family's income, the HOC uses
the five methods acceptable to HUD, in the following order of
- Upfront Income Verification (“UIV”) through
HUD's Enterprise Income Verification system
- Third-Party Written Verification
- Third-Party Oral Verification
- Review of Documents
data is used to validate income reported by a family
participating in the Housing Choice Voucher program and to
supplement documents provided to the HOC. If UIV data is
substantially different from the client reported income, the
HOC next requests written third-party verification from the
discrepant income source.
When written third-party verification is delayed or not
possible, the HOC obtains oral third-party verification. When
the HOC obtains oral third-party verification, an employee of
the HOC completes a certification form that states a summary
of the facts provided by the third party.
When oral third-party verification is unavailable, the HOC
uses documents provided by the family for verification.
Examples of documents that might be provided to the HOC by
the family include printed wage stubs, computer print-outs
from the employer, and signed letters (provided that the
information is confirmed by phone). Documents provided by the
family are to be dated within the last 120 days of the
reexamination. Pay stubs are to be current and consecutive.
When verification cannot be made by third-party verification
or review of documents, families are required to complete a
When the HOC verifies income, there are several acceptable
methods of verification. In order of preference, they are:
employment verification form provided by the employer, four
current consecutive pay stubs or earning statements, W-2
forms plus income tax return forms, and self-certification or