Appealing Your Denied Application for a Housing Subsidy

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Getting Notice of a Denial of a Housing Subsidy

If you apply for a housing subsidy program and the housing authority or provider denies your application, it must send you notice of the denial. The programs covered in this article are: public housing, privately owned Section 8 multifamily housing (multifamily housing), and Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher (voucher). The notice must tell you why your application was denied. If your application for public housing or a voucher is denied, the notice must tell you that you have the right to an informal hearing or review. For multifamily housing, the notice must tell you that you have the right to meet with the owner. The notice must also tell you how much time you have to request the hearing or meeting, and how to request it.

You have the right to get copies of your application file before your hearing, review, or meeting. You also have the right to get the following documents from your local housing authority or rental owner:

  • Admissions and Continuing Occupancy Policy (ACOP) for public housing

  • An administrative plan for Section 8 vouchers

  • A private owner’s tenant selection plan for multifamily housing

These documents explain the rules for applying and getting housing assistance. The housing authority may charge you to copy these documents. 

Requesting a Meeting for Multifamily Housing

If you apply to live in multifamily housing and are denied, the letter you get must tell you that you have the right to meet with the owner to discuss your application denial. You do not have the right to a hearing or review with your local housing agency.

If you believe your application should have been approved, request a meeting with the owner to object to the denial. You must request the meeting within 14 days of getting notice.

Request the meeting by writing a letter to the private owner. Take the letter and one copy to the owner’s office and ask the staff person to stamp or mark your copy to show it was received.

If you have a disability, you have the right to reasonable accommodations so you can participate in the meeting. Include your request for accommodations in your letter.

If a private owner has a tenant selection plan, you also have a right to see it.

Requesting a Hearing or Review for Public Housing or Voucher

If you believe your application should have been approved, request an informal hearing or review to object to the denial. Request a hearing or review by writing a letter to your local housing agency within the time stated in your denial notice. Generally, you must request the hearing or review within ten days of the notice. You can use this Sample Request Letter to create your own request.

Make a copy of the original letter and take both the original letter and the copy to the housing authority. Ask the housing authority staff to stamp both the original letter and the copy. Keep the copy for yourself.

Your local housing authority must set a date for your hearing and give you notice of your hearing within a reasonable amount of time.

Getting Ready for Your Hearing or Review

Start by looking at the notice of denial you got. Why did it say your application was denied? Common reasons include a criminal record, history of evictions, poor credit history, and lying on your application. You need to be prepared to explain or disprove the reason you were denied.

If you were denied because of a criminal record, the housing authority must give you a copy of the record. Look to see if it’s accurate. The housing authority can’t charge for copies of criminal records. Think about if you can tell or show any of the following at the hearing:

  • You haven’t been involved in criminal activity in at least two years for minor crimes or five years for more serious crimes;

  • You went through a rehabilitation program;

  • You participated in community service programs or projects;

  • The criminal activity was not violent or drug related (the most serious types for subsidized housing admission);

  • You have documents that show your good character and lack of recent criminal activity.

If you were denied because of past evictions, think about if you can tell or show any of the following at the hearing:

  • It’s been a long time since the eviction;

  • You have a good explanation for an eviction such as not being able to pay rent after losing a job;

  • You have good rental history since your past evictions.

If you were denied because of lying on your application, look at your file to see what the housing authority or owner thinks you lied about. One reason given by the housing authority for your denial may be that you did not mention an eviction or conviction. If so, you may wish to discuss with the housing authority whether your omission was intentional, because you forgot, or because you did not know about it. You may also wish to discuss any disability you have (or medications you are taking) that might make you forgetful, tired, or unable to focus.

Be ready to show that you qualify to receive a subsidy. Bring proof of your income to the hearing.

Each housing authority can develop its own rules for hearings or reviews. Look at the policies you got from the local housing authority so you know what to expect.

You have the right to:

  • Bring witnesses who support your case

  • Show documents, such as letters of recommendation, medical records, proof of community service participation or completion of educational or rehabilitation programs, and court documents that support your case

  • Ask questions of any witnesses against you

If the denial was related to a disability you have, you might qualify for a reasonable accommodation. This is an adjustment in a landlord’s policies that gives a person with disabilities an equal opportunity to get and use housing. To learn more about the rights people with disabilities, Rights of Tenants With Disabilities.

Attending the Meeting, Hearing, or Review

During the meeting, hearing, or review, explain why you don’t think your application should be denied. Show any proof you have, such as documents that prove or support what you’re saying. This could include affidavits (sworn statements) from people who know you well.

The meeting, hearing, or review must be conducted by a member of the housing authority or owner’s staff who was not involved in the decision to deny your application. The person representing the housing authority or private owner will explain why you don’t qualify for a subsidy.

The housing authority or owner almost always has discretion to consider all the circumstances of your situation. This means that even if there is a reason to deny your application, the agency or owner can overlook that reason if there is a good explanation for it. The same is true if it would be unfair to deny your application for that reason.

After you present your case, the person or group running the meeting, hearing, or review may want to ask additional questions or see your evidence. They will then decide to grant or deny you the subsidy.

After Your Meeting, Hearing, or Review

You will get written notice of the decision made at your meeting, hearing, or review. The notice must state whether you’ll get a subsidy, and the reasons you do or do not qualify. If you applied for multifamily housing, the notice must be sent to you within five business days. If you applied for public housing or Section 8 vouchers, the housing authority should send the notice within ten business days.

If the decision says your application should be approved, you must be awarded a subsidy or placed on the waiting list.

If the decision is not in your favor, you may appeal it to a state or federal court. Appealing the decision isn’t easy. You may want to find a lawyer to help you. If you have low income, you may qualify for free legal services. Whether you have a low income or not, you can use the Guide to Legal Help to find lawyers in your area. If you are not able to get free legal services but can’t afford high legal fees, consider hiring a lawyer for part of your case instead of the whole thing. This is called limited scope representation. To learn more, read Limited Scope Representation (LSR): A More Affordable Way to Hire a Lawyer. To find a limited scope lawyer, follow this link to the State Bar of Michigan lawyer directory. This link lists lawyers who offer limited scope representation. You can narrow the results to lawyers in your area by typing in your county, city, or zip code at the top of the page. You can also narrow the results by topic by entering the kind of lawyer you need (divorce, estate, etc.) at the top of the page.