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STATEN v. HOUSING AUTH. OF PITTSBURGH

May 1, 1979

Shirley STATEN et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
HOUSING AUTHORITY OF the CITY OF PITTSBURGH et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MCCUNE

This civil rights action, originally brought as a class action, was filed by two tenants in a federally assisted public housing project owned and operated by the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh (Housing Authority). Plaintiffs, Shirley Staten and Phyllis Hardison, allege that the defendant Housing Authority terminated their leases and instituted state eviction proceedings without providing sufficient notice as mandated by 42 U.S.C. § 1437 d, the regulations promulgated thereunder at 24 C.F.R. 866 (1978), and the corresponding Public Housing Occupancy Handbook, 7465.1 Rev. Plaintiffs allege that the Housing Authority's practices have denied them due process of law in violation of their rights under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 42 U.S.C. § 1988. Plaintiffs also allege that the Housing Authority's practices violate the Act of April 6, 1951, P.L. 69, art. V, § 501, 68 P.S. § 250.501. Jurisdiction is based upon 28 U.S.C. § 1343 and the doctrine of pendant jurisdiction.

Plaintiffs assert no money damages. They seek an injunction preventing the Housing Authority from evicting them until the defendant complies with the necessary notice procedures as mandated by federal and state law. They also seek relief declaring the Housing Authority's procedures in violation of 24 C.F.R. Part 866 and 68 P.S. § 250.501.

 This matter was tried, non-jury, and the following is written to comply with Rule 52 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

 I

 Plaintiff, Shirley Staten, was advised by the Housing Authority in the form of an "INTENT TO EVICT" notice for nonpayment of rent, dated November 1, 1978, that her continuing entitlement to public housing was to be terminated. This notice ordered Staten to vacate the dwelling or pay the rent due by November 15, 1978. The notice also apprised Staten of her right to contest "the Authority's proposed action to terminate her lease by requesting an administrative hearing." This right to a hearing, however, was conditioned upon Staten notifying the manager of her intent to request a hearing by November 10, 1978. Staten did not present a grievance to the manager.

 Plaintiff, Phyllis Hardison, also received "INTENT TO EVICT" notices for non-payment of rent on two separate occasions. *fn1" On neither occasion did she request a hearing by notice to the manager. The Housing Authority's notice to Hardison of July 3, 1978 was the first notice. It ordered Hardison to vacate the dwelling or pay the sum requested by July 18, 1978. The rent was not paid. The Housing Authority instituted state court eviction proceedings against Hardison on July 27, 1978, and obtained a judgment for possession of the premises. An agreement was reached between the parties, however, and Hardison was allowed to retain possession. Thereafter, Hardison received another notice for non-payment of rent, dated October 6, 1978, ordering her to vacate the premises by October 23, 1978. On November 3, 1978, the Housing Authority instituted state court eviction proceedings against Hardison. This court enjoined the state eviction hearing on December 21, 1979, on condition that the rent be paid to the Clerk and rent be kept current pending these proceedings.

 Plaintiffs contend that a two notice system must be implemented by the Housing Authority to comply with HUD regulations. The initial notice must announce a proposed termination and inform the tenant of his right to a grievance meeting or informal settlement. The second notice must be a notice to vacate the premises. Defendant, on the other hand, contends that a single notice, containing a proposed termination clause and a notice to vacate clause, complies with federal regulations and applicable state law. *fn2"

 II

 Plaintiffs moved to certify this action as a class action pursuant to Rule 23(a) and (b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The court finds no compelling reason, however, why a class action would be superior to other available methods for the fair and efficient adjudication of this case. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(b)(3). The relief requested by the plaintiffs consists solely of injunctive and declaratory relief. In the event the court determines that the Housing Authority must alter its notice procedure to comply with federal and state law, such a determination will alter the procedure for all tenants. Thus, certification of a class is inappropriate. See Gray v. International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, 73 F.R.D. 638 (D.D.C.1977).

 III

 The Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh is a public corporation created under the Pennsylvania Housing Authority Law, May 28, 1937, P.L. 955 § 1 Et seq., 35 P.S. § 1541 Et seq. and in accordance with the United States Housing Act of 1937, 88 Stat. 653, 42 U.S.C. § 1437 Et seq. The USHA, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1437 c and 1437 d (1974) grants authority to the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to promulgate regulations to govern the management and operation of public housing agencies, such as defendant Housing Authority.

 In 1975, the Secretary amended Title 24 of the Code of Federal Regulations to include Part 866 which outlines lease, lease termination, and grievance procedures.

 The Housing Authority concedes that it must comply with 24 C.F.R. Part 866 (1978). It also concedes that it must comply with the Public Housing Occupancy Handbook (Handbook). *fn3" See Thorpe v. Housing Authority of the City of Durham, 393 U.S. 268, 89 S. Ct. 518, 21 L. Ed. 2d 474 (1968). The Handbook states that lease terminations "must conform to the provisions of 24 C.F.R. § 866.4(1) and to applicable state and local laws." *fn4"

 The pertinent state law applicable to the eviction procedure employed by the Housing Authority is the Act of April 6, 1951, P.S. 69, art. V, § 501, 68 P.S. § 250.501. 68 P.S. § 250.501, entitled "Notice to quit," requires the landlord to notify the tenant ...


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