Why Catching Program Violations and Fraud is Important
What are Program Violations and Fraud?
How violations and fraud are investigated
Penalties for Committing Violations and Fraud
Reporting Violations and Fraud
The federal government allocates a fixed amount of funds to the Housing Authority with which it is to provide rental assistance to as many families as possible. When a participating family receives more rental assistance than it is due, those additional rental assistance funds are not available to assist another family.
Each family is asked to spend approximately 30% of its income towards its rent. This is a reasonable amount to be asked to pay, few families on the private market pay so small a percentage of their income for rent.
By misrepresentation, not declaring income or otherwise engaging in program violations, the person doing so is not only cheating tax payers and the federal government, he or she is cheating another low income family out of assistance.
The vast majority of families currently receiving rental assistance, as well as many thousands of families on the waiting list, are honest, adhere to the rules and appreciate their rental assistance when they receive it.
The Housing Authority of the County of Santa Cruz is committed to eliminating fraud and dishonesty from its programs and has created a special investigative unit called the Program Integrity unit with a staff trained in investigation.
If you suspect a program violation or fraud is happening, you are encouraged to report it to the Program Integrity unit.
Some misconceptions about the Housing Authority programs lead people to assume program violation or fraud is occurring when it is not. Families do not have to be on welfare to qualify for the program; in fact, families are encouraged to work, increase their income and eventually move off the program.
People who live together as a stable household but are not married are eligible for the program, as are families without children, single people, the elderly and persons with disabilities. However, all people living in the household and the income of all people in the household must be reported to the Housing Authority promptly.
Some examples of program violations or fraud by a program participant or tenant:
- Misstatements of facts
- Omission of facts
- Making false statements
- Lying on personal declaration forms
- Failure to comply with program requirements.
- Failure to report all income and/or assets.
- Falsifying document and/or signatures.
- Failure to report promptly changes in income or household composition.
- Allowing additional people to live in the home without approval from the Housing Authority and landlord.
- Subleasing all or part of the rental unit.
- Paying more rent to the landlord than the amount stated on the Tenancy Addendum to the Lease (also called “side payments”).
- Charging a live-in aide rent.
- Committing a serious criminal act.
- Owning or having a financial interest in the rental unit.
Some examples of program violations or fraud by a landlord:
- Collecting additional payments from the family beyond that stated in the Tenancy Addendum to the lease (also called “side payments”).
- Accepting Housing Assistance payments for a vacant unit.
- Living in the same rental unit as the program participant.
The Housing Authority has many sources and investigative methods at its disposal. Friends and neighbors may be interviewed or surveillance of activities undertaken.
Government data bases that provide records of income, assets, places of residence, criminal background and other information may also be used.
The Housing Authority also works closely with law enforcement and other public agencies to conduct joint investigations and cooperates fully in criminal and civil prosecutions.
Penalties range from losing rental assistance to prosecution and imprisonment. Violators may be fined and also be required to repay all overpaid rental assistance.
Under the Section 8 program, if a violation is determined, the Housing Authority might stop rental assistance but the landlord may allow the violator to remain in the rental unit. The Housing Authority cannot evict or remove the violating family from the home, only the landlord may evict.
By phone: information may be given confidentially by calling the Program Integrity unit at 454-9455, extension 251. If the Program Integrity Officer is not available, a message can be left in the secure voice mail box accessed by only the Program Integrity Officer.
Electronically: a report may also be made confidentially via this web site by completing the Program Violation Reporting Form. This form goes directly from the web site to the Program Integrity Officer.
In writing: the Program Violation Reporting Form can also be printed from the web site and mailed to, or dropped off at, the Housing Authority, 2160 41st Avenue, Capitola, CA 95010, attention: Program Integrity Officer/Confidential Information.
All reports of program violations and fraud are held in strict confidence.
Based on information received confidentially, the Housing Authority Program Integrity Officer will undertake an independent investigation and will not reveal the name of the person providing the information. If the Program Integrity Officer finds that a case cannot be proven without using information that would reveal the identity of the informant, the Program Integrity Officer will contact the informant for permission to use identifying information. If permission is not given, the informant’s name will not be used but the case may not be able to go forward.
Because of confidentiality requirements, the Housing Authority will not be able to make any statements regarding the status of investigations or results. Investigations, then the process of termination and/or prosecution can be lengthy; it should not be assumed that no action is being taken simply because the family remains in the home.