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Judge Rules Against Raleigh Housing Authority In Tenant Dispute

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RALEIGH, N.C. — A federal judge ruled the Raleigh Housing Authority failed to give a fair hearing to a low-income tenant after canceling her housing benefits, marking the second time that a tenant has won a federal judgment against the agency.

U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle's decision said Michelle Evans was treated unfairly after the housing authority took her Section 8 housing voucher in 2003. Boyle wrote that Evans was denied an impartial decision-maker, a basic tenet of fairness.

About 3,300 low-income tenants who qualify for the Section 8 program receive rent vouchers from the agency.

Evans' case began in 2002, when she moved into a house where the agency covered most of her $1,175 rent. A landlord-tenant dispute began afterward, and her landlord sought over $3,000 in damages after she moved out in 2003.

Afterward, Evans was told that her voucher would be terminated based on the damages and that she would have a hearing that October. The same employee who decided to terminate Evans' voucher conducted the hearing.

Evans presented pictures of the house and a city inspector's report, Boyle's decision said, but the hearing officer relied mostly on administrative paperwork. The landlord did not attend.

Boyle's decision reinstates Evans' benefits and keeps the agency from taking them based on her past record. He also said that the termination of benefits was a "glaring impropriety" that violates the Constitution.

In April, Boyle stopped the authority from taking a voucher from Monique Williams, a Zebulon woman who was threatened with eviction.

In his decision, he agreed that the agency's tactics appear to violate the law. He granted a preliminary injunction, noting that Williams was not able to cross-examine witnesses against her.

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