Friday, May 11, 2007

BHA: We Pay Rent for Dead People

By Michael Mechanic
Fri, May 11, 2007 at 4:55 PM

Berkeley Housing Authority gadfly Lynda Carson sends out reams of e-mail to journalists, and we usually hit "delete," but the subject line of this one caught our attention: "BHA Report Reveals How Landlords Collect Rent On The Deceased In Berkeley." Carson's notice came a bit late, but indeed, a March 20 status report prepared for the Berkeley City Council by the housing authority contained several tidbits worthy of note. While reviewing discrepancy reports from the federal department of Housing and Urban Development, housing authority officials realized some of their tenants (they call 'em "clients") were dead. There were also situations, the report said, where BHA staff knew, or should have known the clients were dead, but took no action, and landlords kept getting payments "for several months or longer." (We've got a call in to BHA to ask just how long "longer" might be.) The report also notes a case in which a disabled client died, and the person's live-in attendant continued to stay in the unit for more than a year while the housing authority paid subsidies to the landlord.

There were also a number of cases where the birth dates for heads of household were listed in the system as 1-1-1901, an error that more than qualified them as an "elderly household," thus qualifying them for a bogus $400 rent break. Where it had occurred in the prior six months, the BHA reported, the latter errors were " the result of inattention and/or sloppy staff work." The purpose of the report, fortunately, was to shed light on the problems, and hopefully prevent them from continuing.

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