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B.H. is a resident of a local low income community where she had a perfect rental history, up until June 2011. B. has two teenage daughters who were falsely accused of inciting a fight at a convenience store near the community in which they lived. Someone anonymously reported this incident to the property manager who then gave B.H. the opportunity to appear before the board and protest the accusations. B. and her family were still placed on a six-month probation even after she had gone before the board.
A few months later, the property management board received another anonymous and false complaint on the H. sisters. The board then issued a written bar notice that directed B.H. and her daughters to leave the community as well as directing the absentee landlord attorney to evict them if they failed to comply. B.H. once again went before the board to protest the bar notice. The board then revoked the bar notice but issued a new six-month probationary period to B., with the stipulation of any other violations of the probationary period would lead to an immediate bar notice without the opportunity to appear before the Board to protest any anonymous complaint.
B.H. felt as if she'd been treated unfairly. She was a single mom of two teenage girls for whom she did her best to provide a home. She had a perfect rental history, and the Board was trying to evict her and her children based on hearsay and anonymous complaints. She knew it was out of her hands and something had to be done. B.H. contacted Rappahannock Legal Services where Volunteer Attorney Bill Botts took B.H. as a client.
Mr. Botts immediately recognized that the complaints against B.'s kids would be considered inadmissible in court because it is hearsay, and a judge would not evict the tenant without the complainant testifying and the defendant being provided the opportunity to cross examine the complainant. Mr. Botts then sent a letter to the site supervisor requesting the probationary period to be revoked as well as have the Board revamp their process of dealing with complaints against tenants. Mr. Botts suggested complaints be in a written form and complainants go before the Board so that the accused may have a chance to defend before any other action is taken. The procedure that the Board had taken denies due process to the resident and likely would not go far in court.
The site supervisor of B.'s community rescinded the second probationary period as well as reorganizing the process of the Board's response to anonymous complaints. Complainants would now have to write and submit their complaints on a signed complaint form. This would eliminate any hearsay or false reports as well as allow the accused to properly defend themselves.
B.H. was initially denied her legal rights until Mr. Botts stepped in and recognized the injustice in the situation, which not only turned things around for B.H. and her family, but for the entire community. The Board modified their complaint procedure which enforces due process.