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Alexander v. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Carla A. Hills

May 20, 1977


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division. Civil No. IP 74-706-C - Cale J. Holder, Judge.

Cummings and Pell, Circuit Judges, and William J. Campbell, Senior District Judge.*fn*

Author: Campbell

CAMPBELL, Senior District Judge.

This is an appeal from an order of the district court granting defendants' motion for summary judgment. The facts are not in dispute.

The seventeen plaintiffs are former tenants of the Riverhouse Tower Apartments (Riverhouse), a complex consisting of two 12-story buildings containing 294 apartment units located in Indianapolis, Indiana. The project was constructed by Riverhouse Apartments, Inc., a private nonprofit corporation and former mortgagor of Riverhouse. Repayment of a loan secured by the mortgage was insured by the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under § 221(d)(3) of the National Housing Act, as amended, 12 U.S.C. § 1715 l (d)(3). In accordance with that section, upon the completion of the Riverhouse Project, the interest rate on the loan was reduced to 3%, and the mortgage was purchased by the Government National Mortgage Association.

Riverhouse Apartments, Inc. defaulted on the loan in July, 1970, In December of that year the mortgagee (Government National Mortgage Association) assigned the note and mortgage to HUD. Three years later, in face of the mortgagor's continuing default, HUD initiated a foreclosure action in the Southern District of Indiana. From May, 1973 until September, 1974 Riverhouse was in possession of a court-appointed receiver. A Marshal's sale ensued, and HUD acquired title to Riverhouse.

After the acquisition, HUD employed the Federal Property Management Corporation to manage Riverhouse and to secure needed repairs. However, the condition of Riverhouse had so deteriorated that HUD determined to terminate the project. Affidavits in the record attest to the deplorable condition into which Riverhouse had fallen. The project was infested with roaches and vermin; elevators were often inoperable; security was poor; hot water and heat were inadequate or non-existent; the buildings were often flooded; lighting was poor in the narrow hallways which were often cluttered with garbage; plumbing was deficient, and some tenants had electrical problems.

Recognizing that Riverhouse was plagued by unsafe conditions, nonpayment of rents, and the excessive costs of bringing the project into good condition, HUD caused notices to quit to be served on all tenants. These notices were issued on November 18, 1974, requiring the tenants to vacate Riverhouse by December 31, 1974. By February, 1975 Riverhouse was vacant.

During the time the project was operating, all tenants were required to post a $100.00 security deposit at the time of their initial tenancy. When Riverhouse was terminated, HUD returned the security deposits to all tenants who were current in their rent payments. In the case of five of the plaintiffs, however, HUD applied the amount of their security deposits to the balance of any rent arrears.

In the district court, plaintiffs sought relocation benefits as provided by the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act, 42 U.S.C. § 4601 et seq. (URA). In support of this contention, plaintiffs asserted that the November 18, 1974 order to vacate Riverhouse made them eligible for benefits afforded to "displaced persons" within the meaning of URA. Further, the five plaintiffs whose security deposits were not returned due to rent arrears sought the return of those monies, alleging that HUD had breached a warranty of habitability which is to be implied in their leases. Owing to this breach, plaintiffs contended, the obligation to pay rent was relieved, and thus HUD wrongfully withheld those security deposits and applied them to the balance of rent arrears. The district court held URA inapplicable to the closing of the Riverhouse Project, and held there is no implied warranty of habitability in plaintiffs' leases. We affirm.


Prior to the enactment of URA, there appear to have been two major legislative provisions for handling most relocation benefits: the Amendments to the Federal Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1465, which provided relocation assistance benefits to persons displaced by urban renewal projects, and the Highway Relocation Assistance Act, PUB. L. 91-605, 84 Stat. 1724, which provided assistance benefits in connection with Federal Aid highway construction projects. In addition to urban renewal and highway construction projects, other legislative provisions dealt with relocation assistance to owners and tenants of land acquired by federal agencies for governmental purposes.*fn1 All of these relocation assistance provisions were repealed, 84 Stat. 1903, by the enactment of URA. Recognizing the disparities and inconsistencies existing among federal and federally assisted programs with respect to the amount and scope of benefits and other assistances, Congress sought to provide uniform treatment for those forced to relocate as a result of federal and federally aided public improvements programs. House Report No. 91-1656, 91st Cong. 2d Sess.; 1970 U.S. Code Cong. & Admin. News. pp. 5581-5582. See also : 42 U.S.C. § 4621.

Relocation assistance under URA is afforded to "displaced persons". 42 U.S.C. § 4601(6) defines a "displaced person" as:

"Any person who . . . moves from real property, or moves his personal property from real property, as the result of the acquisition of such real property, . . . or as the result of the written order of the acquiring agency to vacate real property, for a program or project ...

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