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1.1.1 How to use this manual

This comprehensive manual provides critical information on the rights of tenants who reside in HUD-subsidized or assisted housing, providing a detailed review of the current law coupled with historical overviews of the various programs. This book is for advocates who represent tenants or HUD-housing applicants, as well as housing providers and managers, affordable housing advocates, policymakers, and scholars.

Chapter 1 begins with an overview of the HUD beaurocracy and HUD rulemaking procedure, and provides tips on determing the type of subsidized housing involved in your case. Chapter 1 also describes the major low-income housing programs subsidized by HUD and summarizes the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program administered by the United States Department of Treasury. Included in the descriptions are summaries of eligibility criteria and rent requirments, how housing is provided under the program, the important contractual requirements, HUD or Treasury oversight responsibilities, and various sources of residents’ rights. These program descriptions help to decipher the maze of federal programs, their terminology and their interrelated or overlapping components.1

Chapters 2 through 12 cover common problems that federal housing tenants encounter in certain contexts, such as admissions, rents, evictions and maintenance. Because many problems overlap within these categories, cross-references to other applicable sections of the manual are provided, where applicable. Users also should review other chapters that may be related to the problem at hand.

Chapter 13 provides an overview of protections and rights available to tenants under various federal laws such as the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA) and the Fair Housing Act. In addition to rights provided by individual housing programs, advocates must also be familiar with these cross-cutting considerations when representing tenants.

The final chapter highlights some of the more common substantive law questions and procedural issues that arise in litigation concerning the federal housing programs. However, this chapter is not intended to provide a comprehensive analysis of the federal practice issues or exhaustive research on the housing cases related to each federal practice issue. The user should use Chapter 14 as a starting point and should supplement with additional research.

Within many of the chapters, the discussion is organized by program. Depending on the applicable law, not every program may be covered within each chapter. Public housing, HUD-subsidized housing and Section 8 programs are typically discussed, and helpful analogies may be found by reviewing the discussion of an issue as it relates to other programs. Certain issues may be more developed within some programs through case law and regulations than others, providing advocates with judicial, Congressional and HUD reasoning and actions that may be extended by analogy to the other programs.

The source material for the manual includes statutes, regulations, other agency guidance and judicial decisions2 issued through the end of 2017, as well as more recent law for significant developments. Many unreported cases and administrative materials cited in the manual may be accessed on the Companion Website. Despite our best efforts, there may be relevant cases and HUD sub-regulatory materials that are not included in this manual. Also, while we have made every reasonable effort to be accurate, in a work of this scope, some errors and omissions are inevitable. Please help us improve the manual by sending us suggestions or corrections at


  • 1 A summary of the statutory, regulatory and handbook citations for each HUD housing program is provided in Appendix 1A: Quick Reference Guide to Laws and Rules on Federal Housing Programs.

  • 2 For unreported cases, Westlaw or Lexis citations are provided where available, and we have provided any that we have on the Companion Website. Where availabile, we have included Clearinghouse numbers for some older cases to enable possible access to the opinions and pleadings from the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, Clearinghouse Review, 50 E Washington Street, Suite 500, Chicago, Illinois, 60602. These documents are not currently available from the National Housing Law Project. NHLP is working with the Shriver Center to make these materials available on our Companion Website.