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Cain v. Allegheny County Housing Authority

December 22, 2009

KAMALA CAIN
v.
ALLEGHENY COUNTY HOUSING AUTHORITY, APPELLANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Senior Judge Flaherty

Argued: October 13, 2009

BEFORE: HONORABLE ROBERT SIMPSON, Judge, HONORABLE ROCHELLE S. FRIEDMAN, Senior Judge, HONORABLE JIM FLAHERTY, Senior Judge.

OPINION

Allegheny County Housing Authority (ACHA) petitions for review of an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County (trial court) that sustained the appeal of Kamala Cain (Tenant) from a determination of a hearing examiner upholding a termination of assistance payments. We affirm.

On May 13, 2008, Tenant was sent a Notice of Intention to Terminate Housing Authority Assistance Payments (Termination Notice). A hearing was held on July 21, 2008 whereupon Tenant testified she was told by her landlord that she had to move out due to nonpayment of plumbing bills and rent. According to Tenant, she was required to vacate by April 19, 2008 and did so. During testimony, the following dialogue took place:

Hearing Officer: 19th, okay. Did you notify anybody at the Housing Authority?

Cain: I think I came down here. Or either called or came down, I don't remember, with so much going on.

Hearing Officer: Do you recall who you talked to?

Cain: Just letting them know that you know that they- I think I talked to you, Ms. Chambers, or either operator. I had spoken to the operator, who gives you the information. Because I can't call direct to Ms. Chambers (sic) office, it always gives me someone to speak to before they connect me to the office. So I had spoke to someone here in this office to let them know what the situation was on those days whenever I got this letter.*fn1

Reproduced Record (R.R.), at 35a.

The hearing officer upheld the termination of assistance payments. In Finding of Fact No. 4, she indicated "Tenant testified that she called the Housing Authority switchboard to notify them of what was going on, but did not speak to any housing counselor regarding her vacating the subject unit nor has she ever given any written notification of the same." Dec. dated 7/25/08, p. 1. The hearing officer specified that a tenant vacating a unit without proper notice is a violation of "Section 982.552(7)(i)."*fn2 Id. at p. 2. The hearing officer determined Tenant offered "uncontradicted testimony that [she] had vacated the subject unit without obtaining approval from the Housing Authority." (Emphasis Added). Id.

The trial court sustained Tenant's appeal of the hearing officer's determination on December 15, 2008. The trial court explained that the hearing officer erroneously concluded that Tenant was required to receive "approval" before leaving the unit. Memorandum in Support of Order dated 12/15/08. Instead, it found Tenant only needed to give "notice" of leaving the unit and that it was undisputed that notice was provided when she left." Id. The trial court directed that Tenant's Section 8 eligibility be reinstated. This appeal followed.*fn3

ACHA argues on appeal that (1) the trial court erred in finding Tenant did not need to receive approval prior to moving to a new unit, (2) if only notice was required, notice is to be given prior to the move, and (3) there was insufficient evidence of record to support a determination that Tenant gave notice she was moving to a new unit.

The following federal regulations are referenced by both parties in this appeal - 24 C.F.R. §982.314, 24 §C.F.R. 982.551, and the aforementioned 24 C.F.R. §982.552.*fn4 ,*fn5 In interpreting a regulation, as in interpreting a statute, the plain language of the regulation is paramount. ...


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