Section 8 discover the wife was dead for 2 years

17 Replies

Hi,

I received a letter from Belmont (Sec 8 housing assistance in Buffalo NY) stating they are terminating the assistance as the wife passed away 2 years ago and they want me to pay back the money from the last 2 years (about 7k).

Some background: I inherited the tenants when i bought the property 14 month ago and was not aware that the wife who had the sec 8 assistance past away (the husband made me believe she is in the hospital). 

What are my options? I would never lie to a government agency and i feel like I'm getting "punished" instead of the one who actually lied.

First, they should only be able to charge you since you became the payee.  Second, While it would be a violation for the TENANT to not report a change in living people in the property, if it was a spouse, it would not have changed the rental amount.I don’t see how you could possible be held accountable for the tenant’s failure to report. Are you sure you are reading their document right? It seems as though the tenant would owe the money back, not you.

Hard to imagine how you could be held responsible for the tenant’s blatant fraud that you had no knowledge or involvement in, but I guess I’m not surprised that they’d TRY to go after the deep pockets (you) because they’re certainly not going to be able to recover all that money from the deadbeat tenant. I’d definitely fight that though. 

I agree with everyone here. This seems fishy at best. I'd get a lawyer ASAP. It's pretty clear the tenant tried to defraud Belmont. What did they expect you to do? Be in the unit every week and check on his wife at the hospital to see if she was really there? C'mon. 

One of the many reasons I’ve gotten away from section 8 assistant programs . They seem like wonderful partners ...till things go wrong then will drop you or charge you for things completely outside of your control .  

You will need an attorney, and the likely outcome is that you are probably going to have to repay whatever funds the tenant wasn't entitled to and sue the tenant for the portion they should have paid, just as it would be if you were taking Section 8 and the tenant didn't pay their portion to you. Unfortunately, most courts are not going to be favorable to anyone, even the "innocent" in fraud cases, because it will likely be obvious the tenant who committed the fraud has no ability to repay the funds, yet you do. 

The caveat is that you should only maximally be responsible for the additional portion the tenant was awarded for having two people, unless it was determined that without the wife the husband was not entitled to any Section 8 assistance. 

So for two years there were no inspections, or contact with the tenants, ? I would tell them screw you, and if anything go after the FREE LOADING husband, who obviously " played the game " 

I would not get an attorney yet. Carefully read the letter. It may just be a courtesy copy of what was sent to the Tenant stating that the Tenant needs to repay them. Then call HUD and speak with them directly to ensure you're understanding it correctly.

If they are coming after you for the money, and refuse to back down, then you can hire an attorney.

Well this is interesting.  I wonder if they are sending you a letter because they are more inclined to get funds from you than they are from the tenant who was receiving the assistance?  I'm not familiar with NY except what I hear via news and rumor.  I would call them directly and make sure you are understanding what you are reading first, and then call an attorney.

On a side note I make it practice to talk to each person on the lease at least once a year (preferably more). I also inspect the property at least once a year. I know the city does that for section 8, but I don't depend on them to enforce my lease. On inherited tenants it is required that I meet each tenant and do an inspection of the property. It's a lot of up front work, but definitely sets the tone for the tenant that I'm not passive or messing around.

@Jo W. it doesn't seem fair but the law generally awards the money back from the person who received it, to the person who was the victim. The money is stolen property and was fraudulently received by the landlord.

It doesn't matter if you were aware. Let me use a couple examples of cases I have seen first hand:

- Friend purchased goods from Craigslist. It was later found out that the goods were stolen. The goods were taken from my friend and given back to the owner. My friend didn't get his money back, even though he had no knowledge of the crime. He was in possession of the stolen goods, so he had to return them.

- Landlord was receiving rent checks from a tenant for over a year. Landlord was contacted by the bank and found out the checks were written from a church bank account. The tenant had access to the bank account, but was not authorized to use church funds to pay their rent. The bank pulled over one years rent from the landlords account. The fact that the church didn't notice the fraud sooner was immaterial. 

It doesn't seem fair, but your recourse will be going after the husband. The money went directly to you so it comes back from you.

The way you described this situation, it sounds like the husband was not named on the Section 8 benefit or maybe he was considered a care giver. Assuming they had children, he would qualify to receive Social Security death benefit. That money can be used for housing, food, clothing, etc. If he was collecting death benefit and remaining in section 8, then he was double dipping. My point is he may be eligible to collect back benefits that he could use to repay you.

As others suggested, hire an attorney. I would also recommend closing the bank account and even withdraw all funds from the bank. The risk is they could stop pay all the checks and report them as fraud. The money will be gone without any due process. You may owe the money, but I would put up a fight. 

Those landlords who participate in the section 8 program know that the housing authority must renew the lease/ do a re-certification every year. So if you have own the property for 14 months, then you should have had at least one re-certification, which involves signing new contracts with the housing authority after passing the annual inspection and also new lease from the tenant specially if the rent has changed.

What I do not understand is that BOTH the tenant and the landlord must sign the forms and also the tenant normally has at least one annual appointment with the housing authority. Landlord and tenant can meet to sign the annual forms in which case landlord should know something is up if tenant is nowhere to be found. Or sometimes the paperwork is mailed to the landlord with the tenant’s section already filled up and signed, which would mean that the tenant visited the housing office. 

So sorry to say but both the landlord and the housing office are to blame here.

Even if some of the blame can be pinned on the housing authority, I don’t see how landlord can claim total innocence. « Wife is in hospital «  from husband is not enough. You can and maybe should hire an attorney but how much will that cost? It’s always possible to negotiate with the housing authority and pay back a smaller amount than the 7k, and a simple letter from an attorney can help you accomplish that or even get you off completely... but you can’t  claim innocence.