For 11 years, Gail Godwin lived in the Harbor Village Apartments. In 2002, her landlord began eviction proceedings for her failure to pay rent on time.

On the day of Godwin’s eviction court hearing, she arrived 20 minutes late and was unable to enter the courtroom because the doors were locked. In her absence, the judge awarded her eviction and possession of Godwin’s apartment to the landlord.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

Charging the Harbor Village landlord evicted her because, the previous year, Godwin had lodged a housing discrimination complaint against her landlord, Godwin appealed to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

HUD referred the case to the state housing board, as authorized by federal law. The state housing board ruled Godwin was evicted due to her late rent payments, not because of her previous discrimination complaint or her status in any protected class.

Based on this decision, a HUD official wrote to Godwin informing her that HUD would close the case.

But Godwin wasn’t satisfied. She then petitioned the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The Secretary of HUD responded that venue was improper and no federal law authorizes any federal court to hear Godwin’s petition. The HUD secretary suggested Godwin’s legal recourse, if any, is a private state court lawsuit against her landlord.

If you were the judge would you rule the tenant’s eviction petition must be heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals?

The judge said no!

The Federal Housing Act creates no explicit cause of action in eviction cases such as this, the judge began. Although judicial review is authorized when the HUD Secretary charges discriminatory housing practices, no such judicial review is permitted if the HUD Secretary has not issued such a complaint, he continued.

“We lack authority to consider Godwin’s petition,” the judge emphasized. We agree with the HUD Secretary that the Federal Housing Act (FHA) authorizes a private action by a tenant against a landlord if the FHA was violated, he added.

A state court action remains available to Godwin because the two-year statute of limitations was tolled during the court proceedings, the judge explained. But her petition for eviction review by the U.S. Court of Appeals is denied, the judge concluded.

Based on the 2004 U.S. Court of Appeals decision in Godwin v. U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, 356 Fed.3d 310.

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center
).

***

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