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Preparing for a Grievance Hearing

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed November 28, 2005
  1. How do I prepare for a public housing grievance hearing?
  2. Can I review housing authority documents before a public housing grievance hearing?

How do I prepare for a public housing grievance hearing?

more prepared you are for the grievance hearing, the more respect the
hearing panel will have for you and your case. Here are some tips:

  • Very
    often hearing officers are not knowledgeable about specific laws,
    regulations, and what is in the lease. For this reason it is very
    important to identify the violation that is the issue, whether it is a
    violation of your lease, a regulation, or law. Have a copy of the rule,
    policy, or your lease so you can know and read the exact words and so
    hearing officers may take into consideration relevant laws,
    regulations, or housing authority policies and rules when making a
  • Be factual, not emotional, during your presentation.
    To help you do this, list on paper the problem or problems and how you
    want the housing authority to solve them.
  • Play "devil's
    advocate." List all the arguments you can think of that the housing
    authority may make to prove its case and prepare your response to each
    one. Do not ignore the housing authority's case against you.
  • Figure
    out what documents you need to prove that the problems in your case do
    or do not exist. This can include letters, notes from phone calls,
    pictures, or any other documents that are important. Get these
    documents before the hearing.
  • Make an extra copy of each
    document that you want to give the hearing officer or hearing panel.
    Highlight the important sections. This makes it easier for the officer
    or panel to read and helps keep the issues clearer in everyone's mind.
    Remember to keep copies of everything for yourself.
  • Organize
    all of these documents in a folder or three-ring binder so that when
    you go to the hearing you will be well prepared and not fumbling for
  • As you prepare, carry a small notebook with you or keep
    one near your telephone to document phone calls or meetings that are
    important to support your position. Note the date, time, people
    involved, and the gist of the discussion. This kind of documentation is
  • Find out if anyone has personal knowledge about the
    problem, and, if so, whether they are willing to tell the hearing
    officer what they know.

If people agree to testify, prepare
them for the hearing. Tell them what you will be asking them and think
about what the housing authority may ask them and go over this with
them. If any of your witnesses live in public housing, they may be
scared to testify. Remind them that they cannot be retaliated against
or evicted for testifying.

Can I review housing authority documents before a public housing grievance hearing?

The housing authority must provide you with an opportunity, prior to
and during the hearing, to look at all documents, records, and
regulations that the housing authority has that may be relevant to your
grievance. You also have the right to make one copy of these documents,
if you make this request in a timely manner. Copying is done at your
expense, although the housing authority can agree not to charge you.

the request to review documents enough in advance of the hearing so
that you have time to prepare for the hearing. It is also a good idea
to make this request in writing. Date this letter and keep a copy for
your files. This will protect you against the housing authority saying
that you never asked to see documents. If a housing authority does not
provide you will access to documents until the last minute, this may be
"good cause" to request that the hearing be postponed.

Federal public housing

public housing regulations state that if the housing authority refuses
to give you access to documents prior to the hearing, those documents
may not be used against you. For example, if housing authority staff
refuse to give you copies of complaints that they have received about
you, the housing authority cannot use these documents at the grievance
hearing or show them to the hearing panel or officer. If the housing
authority tries to use these documents, you should object and ask that
the documents be excluded as evidence.19

State public housing

state public housing regulations are not as clear as federal
regulations, you can argue that similar protections should apply as a
matter of due process, and that if a housing authority refuses to show
you documents, it cannot use them at the grievance hearing.20

1924 C.F.R. § 966.56(b)(1). In addition, in federal public housing eviction cases, if the housing authority does not allow the tenant the opportunity to examine relevant documents before a grievance or court hearing, the eviction must be dismissed. See 42 U.S.C. § 1437d(l)(7); 24 C.F.R. § 966.4(m) .
20760 C.M.R.§ 6.08(4)(d).

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