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Low Income Public Housing

1) Program Overview

Low Income Public Housing (LIPH) units are owned and operated by housing authorities. Tenants pay 30% of their income to rent, minus applicable deductions. Units are subject to regular inspections by PHA management. Public housing tenants are also required to participate in monthly community service or self-sufficiency activities. Changes to income and household status must be reported to the housing authority within 10 days. Failure to do so may result in eviction. LIPH tenants are required to sign one year leases. HUD rules require that all household members receiving subsidies be able to prove legal residency. Read complete HUD rules regarding public housing in the HUD Public Housing Occupancy Guidebook.

2) Waiting List and Application Process

Each PHA maintains a waiting list for public housing buildings in their area, though waiting list policies vary from housing authority to housing authority. Seattle Housing Authority requires that all people in line for public housing check in with them monthly by phone or the web in order to remain on the waiting list. For more information, see SHA Save My Spot.

PHAs also screen tenants based on rental history, criminal and credit records before approving them for public housing units. If you believe you are unfairly denied admission to a LIPH program you can request a grievance hearing by making a request in writing within 10 days of the denial. You may want to try to secure legal representation through Northwest Justice Project, Legal Action Center or the CLEAR line. See our Legal Assistance Guide for information and contact information.

3) Public Housing Evictions

Low Income Public Housing (LIPH) tenants may have a slightly different experience with the eviction process. In some cases, there may be different notice periods for tenants, and good cause is required to evict a tenant from public housing. However, LIPH tenants still go through the same court system and process as all tenants. The Public Housing Authority (PHA) that owns and manages your housing is responsible for following federal regulation that sets the standards for how public housing evictions are to be handled. If you are evicted from public housing, you will lose your opportunity to receive federally assisted low-income housing.

Grounds for termination of the lease in LIPH include non-payment of rent or other serious or repeated violation of the lease; crime that threatens health, safety or quiet enjoyment of other tenants in the building; drug-related activity on or nearby the complex, or other good cause. Evictions in public housing for non-payment of rent require 14 days’ notice, which may be given before the service of a 3-day notice to pay or vacate. In some cases, the 14-day notice to pay rent or vacate may come instead of a 3-day notice. Public housing tenants may also receive 10-day notices to comply or vacate, during which timeframe a grievance hearing may be requested. Health or safety threats require 3 days’ notice, and termination at the end of a lease and all other causes require 30 days’ notice for termination. It is possible that policies will differ in different PHAs. Speak to an attorney for more information and advice on your specific situation. Washington Law Help has detailed information at Eviction for Nonpayment of Rent in Public or Subsidized Housing, Public Housing Evictions and Public Housing Grievance Hearings.

Grievance hearings are also required for tenants facing eviction from public housing, except in the case of drug-related activity or activity that threatens health and safety. The PHA is still required to take a tenant facing eviction through a court process. For more detailed information on eviction, see Eviction Process.

  • Grievance hearings must be taken extremely seriously. Your housing is at stake, and the housing authority will make a case against you that you should be evicted from the property.
  • You can bring documentation to support your position to the hearing in the form of paperwork and written testimony from witnesses. You can also bring witnesses, advocates and legal representation with you into the hearing to support your case.
  • It is a good idea to secure legal representation to go with you into the hearing. Northwest Justice Project, Legal Action Center and the CLEAR line are the best resources for representation in subsidy terminations. See Legal Assistance Guide for information and contact information.
  • Eviction notices must be in writing and you must be given an opportunity to request a grievance hearing in most cases.
  • All grievance hearing requests must be in writing and must be submitted 10 days from receipt of the eviction notice. See a sample Sample Letter: Section 8 Grievance Hearing Request that can be modified for LIPH grievance hearings.
  • In your request, you can ask to see a copy of your file and all the information that is to be used against you at the grievance hearing. This request must be made at least three days before the scheduled hearing date. The housing authority may also ask you to provide the materials you will use in your defense. This request must also be made at least three days before the hearing date.
  • If you need or want an interpreter, the housing authority will provide one at their expense. Make this a part of your written request.
  • You can also ask for the hearing to be tape recorded, and for the PHA to provide you with a copy of the tape after the hearing. They may charge you the cost of the tape.
  • You can ask to reschedule the hearing if you need more time to prepare or in order to secure legal representation. Most housing authorities require that you give them at least 24 hours’ notice and only allow you to reschedule once.
  • Survivors of domestic violence cannot lose their public housing benefits as a consequence of the abuse. See Landlord/Tenant Issues For Survivors of Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and/or Stalking..
  • Public housing tenants can also request grievance hearings for rent calculation questions, requests to add household members or other PHA decisions.
4) Public Housing Tenant Representation

LIPH tenants are entitled to the right to form tenant councils to represent themselves to the housing authority. Some PHA’s have Resident Action Councils or Advisory Boards that support resident participation. Tenant councils are meant to give residents an opportunity to have their voice heard on PHA policies and procedures. Large PHA’s in Washington are required to have tenant participation on their Board of Commissioners. See the Seattle Housing Authority information on Councils & Committees.

Tenants Union Tenant Counselors are not attorneys, and this information should not be considered legal advice. Please read our full Tenant Union Disclaimer.