Last week, six New York residents were charged by the US Department of Justice for withholding income information to receive more than $100,000 in government benefits intended for low-income persons, including Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers. These individuals defrauded the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and other federal offices for more than a decade, but now each face up to 25-35 years in prison.
Occasional reports similar to this are published each year, including this couple convicted of fraudulently collecting more than $50,000 in funds for Section 8 HCVs, sweeps of persons charged of illegally obtaining more than $1 million of Section 8 subsidies, and even pop culture figures sentenced for unjustly receiving Section 8 benefits for years.
Considering the significant steps a person must take and lengthy wait times to receive affordable housing assistance, it is discouraging to see these instances happen, while others who truly need the help stay on waiting lists.
While it is unfortunate that these events occur, the important take away from these reports is that HUD and the housing authorities offering these programs are closely monitoring for this kind of fraud and taking action against persons who commit it.
HUD and housing authorities have several policies that are enforced in the event that a tenant is in violation of the program’s requirements. Examples of tenant fraud may include persons living in the unit who are not on the lease or application, receiving assistance while having a voucher issued by a different housing authority, and under-reporting income.
Although housing offices work hard to verify and keep track of household information, a small number of cases of fraud do slip through.
It is important to note that anyone can report fraud. Neighbors, landlords, property managers, authorities, and even previous tenants may be a whistleblower. If you are aware of someone who receives housing assistance fraudulently, you should report this abuse to HUD.
Persons who report housing fraud may request to remain anonymous. However, it is still important to leave an email or phone number with your complaint, so an investigator can contact you for further information.
Many housing authorities make it easy to file a fraud complaint online. A good example of this process is on the website of the Housing Opportunities Commission of Montgomery County, the housing authority for Montgomery County, Maryland. On the housing authority’s front page, there is a drop down menu for information about its rental programs. The bottom of that menu contains a link to report fraud or another program violation.
If a housing authority does not have an online form, there is likely a fraud hotline available by phone. The number to this line may be available on the housing authority’s website, or as an option when calling the office’s main number. You can search our website for housing authority contact information here.
And even if you can’t find any information on how to report fraud to a housing authority, HUD’s Office of Inspector General provides information on how to report fraud directly to HUD. Please note that this process is specifically to report persons who are in violation of policies and laws in relation to HUD programs. Complaints such as tenant-landlord disputes, discrimination, and maintenance issues must be reported through other means, which are provided on the HUD OIG website.
While many who abuse affordable housing programs are caught each year, there are others who continue to illegally receive housing assistance benefits. With the framework set up by housing authorities and HUD, it is easier now than ever before to report these violations and stop the fraud. If there are any questions about these policies, visit the HUD OIG fraud page, or contact your local housing authority. Housing administrators are hearing these complaints, and are taking action so persons who do follow the guidelines receive the housing assistance they need.