Guest question: Spot checks on public housing residents

I have a couple of social welfare policy-type questions for you � if you�ve time, give me your two cents, would
you? I know in the 1960s a number of behavior-management type rules for AFDC were struck down by the courts � man in the house rules, and I though suitable home rules and such. My recollection was that prior to this welfare workers could check homes for housekeeping issues (part of the �suitable home�) � and that this could have consequences. So � (a) am I remembering this right, or making it up? (b) do you know if these practices were also struck down in 1960s?

(c) IF a and b are yes; what
would that mean for my understanding of a practice of a local non-profit
homeless service agency doing regular checks of their clients homes to make
sure they are complying with the lease, don�t have other people there, and are
keeping it clean? I�m doing some reading that suggests there�s some sort of different standards for what GOVERNMENTS can do (a la welfare caseworkers) vs what private service providers can do. I don�t know if
I believe this —- coming from a book edited by Lawrence Mead.

Please let me know if you have answers or suggestions on
where to find an answer.


This question presents the opportunity once again to point out the pervasive importance of the constitutional right of privacy, as protected by the 14th amendment. The
principle of substantive due process suggests that a welfare client’s right to
privacy is invaded if a state agency seeks means (i.e., spot home checks and
“man in the house” rules fall into this realm) of invading the
client’s terrain without a compelling state justification for doing it. Here,
it would be hard for any state agency to justify these serious home invasions
in light of the fact that there are very likely less intrusive means of
examining the client’s general compliance with agency policies.

There is some difference in what state agencies
can do, as opposed to what private agencies can do, in that public agencies
must answer directly to the constitutional principles noted above, while
private agencies generally need not. It would seem pretty feasible to me for a
homeless service agency to contract with its clients to permit the agency to
perform spot home checks as a condition to providing services.

2 thoughts on “Guest question: Spot checks on public housing residents

  1. I can answer this relative to HUD’s Section 8 Housing Assistance Voucher program.

    Prior to 2004, each and every subsidized apartment was required to be inspected at least every 364 days, that is less than a full year after it was done the year before. 10% of the apartments had to be inspected a second time by a supervisor to ensure quality control of the initial inspection.

    Now the LHA only has to inspect a certain percentage of the apartments being subsidized — it is complicated and based on the presumption/belief that the LHA will concentrate on the units with known problems. Either party to the lease — the tenant and/or landlord — was/is free to request a “special” inspection for any articulateable rational reason, at least with me, you had to have a REASON to request the inspection and harassing the other party was not one of them.

    Both tenant and landlord get notice of the pending inspection, so this wasn’t a surprise. The LHA comers under the “mandated reporter” laws and hence anything involving risk to a minor child had to be reported to the child protective folk. If a boyfriend put me in fear of my physical safety, I reported that — and thus that he was there – which often triggered hearings because the woman had claimed he didn’t live there. And I reported my findings to the landlord, which in one case led to a woman being evicted for drug offenses (she and a dozen gang members were smoking dope in the living room).

    Hope this helps

  2. Two other things — on property owned by the governmental entity — there are different requirements to conduct annual inspections both in terms of general conditions and to survey maintenance needs. Depending on how the property was funded, some Federal programs (e.g. Section 705) have a certain number of the units inspected a second time by a HUD employee.

    Second, “housekeeping standards” are part of the inspection and tenants do fail them.

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