Facing Eviction from Public or Subsidized Housing

If you live in public housing or have a housing voucher, you have all the rights other tenants have and more.

If a Housing Authority (HA) seeks to evict you, it needs to have a good reason.  The HA must prove you committed a serious violation of the lease.  Or the HA must prove you committed repeated minor violations of the lease.  Or the HA must have other ‘good cause.’  You may be evicted from public housing for criminal activity that threatens the health, safety or peaceful enjoyment by other tenants.  In addition, you may be evicted for drug-related activity at or away from your rental unit.  The drug activity can be committed either by you, someone in your household, your guest or someone else in your control.

‘Good cause’ is usually defined as including, but is not limited to:

  • Criminal activity or alcohol abuse
  • Discovery of facts that made the tenant ineligible
  • Discovery of false statements or fraud on the application or recertification
  • Failure to comply with community service requirements (grounds for non-renewal of lease)
  • Failure to accept a proper lease revision after 60 days notice.

Under most housing voucher programs, a private landlord may not evict a housing voucher tenant without ‘good cause.’  In addition, a landlord cannot refuse to renew a lease without ‘good cause.’ 

A subsidized landlord can terminate a tenancy for:

  • Material noncompliance with a rental agreement
  • Material failure to carry out obligations under the landlord tenant law
  • Drug-related criminal activity on or near the premises committed by you someone in your household, your guest or someone else in your control
  • Illegal drug use or alcohol abuse by a tenant or household member
  • Criminal activity committed by you, a household member, a guest or someone else in your control that threatens the health, safety or peaceful enjoyment of other residents
  • Fleeing to avoid prosecution or jail or violation of parole
  • Other good cause for which the landlord has given a warning that the action could lead to termination of the tenancy.

A landlord can evict for serious lease violations.  A landlord can also evict for repeated minor violations.  These violations must affect other tenants, project employees or the physical or financial security of the project.

Both a Housing Authority and private landlord may evict if you don’t pay your rent.  Non-payment of rent is good cause for eviction.  However, there may be reasons why a judge might not evict you.  If household income is reduced, the HA must offer tenants a choice to pay income-based rent, a flat rent or a minimum rent.  An HA must give 14 days’ notice to a tenant before termination for non-payment.  Tenants cannot be evicted for non-payment of late fees or other extra charges.  You can avoid eviction for non-payment by tendering rent before the actual eviction.

There are many defenses to eviction that tenants can raise.  An eviction defense is a legal reason why you should not be evicted.  When you go to court, tell the judge that you have a defense.  If the judge agrees with you, you will not be evicted.

Here are some but not all of the eviction defenses that might stop your eviction:

General defenses to eviction:

  • Your landlord did not give you a three-day Notice to Vacate (leave) before filing the eviction complaint against you.
  • The three-day notice did not include this statement:
  • "You are being asked to leave the premises. If you do not leave an eviction action may be initiated against you. If you are in doubt regarding your legal rights and obligations as a tenant, it is recommended that you seek legal assistance."
  • Your landlord gave you a three-day notice for non-payment of rent before the end of your grace period.
  • Your landlord accepted rent from you after giving you a three-day notice.
  • Your landlord often accepted late rent from you in the past but this time gave you an eviction notice because your rent was late.
  • Your landlord accepted your partial rent payment but filed an eviction against you for not paying all the rent.
  • You offered all of your rent to your landlord when it was due, but your landlord did not accept your rent.
  • The person evicting you does not own the property and did not have an attorney fill out the eviction complaint.
  • Your landlord is evicting you only because you complained about something the landlord should have done.

Defenses to eviction for tenants with Housing Vouchers:

  • Your landlord’s Section 8 contract was cancelled by the HA, or the contract was abated after your unit failed inspections.
  • Your landlord accepted money from the HA after giving you a three-day notice, or your landlord didn't send the HA a copy of the notice.

The Public Housing Grievance Procedure

Permits public housing tenants to challenge actions by the Housing Authority about any problem, ranging from maintenance problems to disputed damage charges to even fighting an eviction.

This article is intended to give you general information and not to provide you specific legal advice.Prepared by Community Legal Aid Services, Inc. Updated June 2013. CE-61-F344-CLAS