Notices Provided to Section 8 Tenant Adequately Apprised her of Reasons for Impending Termination of Benefits

Etta Johnson's landlord evicted her from her Section 8 housing based on repeated violations of her lease. Upon learning of the eviction, the housing authority served Johnson with a notice of a scheduled meeting to discuss it. Johnson was asked to bring various items with her, including various specific documents pertaining to the eviction. In February 2017, after the meeting, the housing authority provided Johnson a summary of the meeting, in which it found her in violation of her obligations as a participant in the Section 8 program.

The housing authority cited several notices from Johnson's landlord stating that she had "harassed, threatened, and caused bodily harm" to her neighbors.  The summary directed Johnson to submit the previously requested documents, which it listed, no later than March 29. On April 24, 2017, the housing authority issued a pre-termination notice formally notifying Johnson of its intent to terminate her Section 8 benefits.  Among the bases for the termination were Johnson's "repeated violations" of her lease and her failure "to supply the housing authority with required information."  After hearing, Johnson's benefits were terminated.

Johnson filed a petition for writ of mandate, challenging the termination of benefits. She argued that the April 24 pre-termination notice violated her due process rights because it did not adequately inform her of the allegations against her so she could prepare a defense. The trial court agreed and granted the writ petition, finding that the pre-termination notice was deficient for failing to identify, among other things, what "additional information" Johnson failed to provide.

The court of appeal reversed, holding that the pre-termination notice, in conjunction with the previously issued summary of meeting, provided Johnson adequate notice both of the documentation she was required to provide and of the factual bases for the violations later relied on by the housing agency in terminating Johnson from the program. Johnson was provided the summary more than a month before the pre-termination notice. The two documents together were sufficient to enable Johnson to prepare a defense.

Johnson v. Housing Authority of the City of Oakland.  Filed July 16, 2019; Ordered pblished, August 8, 2019.

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