Ms. Martinez* is 74-year-old woman with a heart condition who only speaks Spanish. She had a Section 8 subsidized housing voucher, and had been living in her apartment for 20 years.
Ms. Martinez’s daughter had always helped her make sure her bills were paid on time. When her daughter unexpectedly passed away, she began to rely on her adult granddaughter for assistance.
Unbeknownst to Ms. Martinez, her granddaughter was accessing her bank account for her own purposes, but not paying any of her grandmother’s bills.
Ms. Martinez quickly fell behind on her rent and received court papers for a nonpayment proceeding, but could not read or understand what it said. Since she never appeared in court, the landlord received a default judgment and reported the eviction to the Section 8 housing authority. The housing authority sent a notice to Ms. Martinez regarding the termination of her voucher, and provided her with an opportunity to request a hearing.
Since Ms. Martinez could not read or understand this notice, she failed to request a hearing. She received a 72-hour sheriff’s notice to vacate the premises. Ms. Martinez took the notice to her housing authorities, and they suggested she contact Nassau/Suffolk Law Services (Law Services) for assistance.
Law Services attorneys immediately assisted Ms. Martinez with writing a letter to the housing authority, requesting they reopen her case and allow her to request a hearing on the termination. Ms. Martinez’s attorneys also prepared an order to show cause to vacate the default judgment entered against her, and assisted her with an application for rental arrears from the local department of social services.
Ms. Martinez's application was approved and her rental arrears were paid. The housing authority reinstated her Section 8 housing voucher.
*Names have been changed