Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County in case of Allegheny County Housing Authority v. Charles and Charlene Cooley, No. SA 1348 of 1978.
James D. Belliveau, for appellant.
Harry M. Montgomery, Jr., for appellee.
Judges Mencer, Rogers and Williams, Jr., sitting as a panel of three. President Judge Crumlish and Judges Mencer, Rogers, Blatt, Williams, Jr., Craig, MacPhail and Palladino. Opinion by Judge Rogers. Judge MacPhail dissents. Judge Palladino did not participate in the decision in this case.
[ 64 Pa. Commw. Page 253]
Charlene Cooley has appealed from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County quashing her appeal from an action of the Allegheny County Housing Authority. Mrs. Cooley lived with her husband, Charles and their children in housing owned by the Allegheny County Housing Authority and were paying rent in the amount of about $175 per month when in November of 1977 Mr. Cooley left his family. This defection caused a reduction in the family's income which, Mrs. Cooley contended, and still contends, required the Authority to reduce her rent pursuant to applicable federal regulations. Mrs. Cooley was admitted to public assistance and her rent was reduced to $59 per month in about March of 1978. After the husband left and until the time her rent was reduced, Mrs. Cooley fell in arrears in her rent in the amount of about $700. This resulted in two proceedings. First, the Authority brought an action for the rent and for possession of the Cooley accommodations
[ 64 Pa. Commw. Page 254]
before a District Justice which resulted in a judgment entered against both Cooleys (who failed to appeal) in the amount of $744. The second proceeding was one instituted by Mrs. Cooley with the Authority pursuant to the Authority's so-called Grievance Procedure authorized by federal regulations, in which Mrs. Cooley asserted that under the provisions of her tenancy her rent should have been reduced at a date earlier than March 1978 and that her true delinquency was only about $70 rather than the much larger amount demanded by the Authority. The Authority's Grievance Procedure defines a grievance as any dispute which a tenant may have with the Authority's actions under the lease or federal regulations.
A hearing was conducted by the Authority, after which the Authority wrote three letters to Mrs. Cooley's lawyers as follows:
This is to inform you of the decision reached as a result of the Administrative Hearing given upon your request on Tuesday, August 8, 1978.
ACHA should contact D.P.W. and ascertain why this woman claims poverty from Nov. 1977 was not found eligible until March, 1978? MRS. COOLEY will have to sign release of information for us to get this. We still have not received any legal proof of separation although N.L.S. had made appointment to produce these several weeks ago. Until this is proven beyond a doubt, we should not relent ...