Public Housing Residents Eligible for Money Back from CRHA - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Public Housing Residents Eligible for Money Back from CRHA

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Hundreds of people who've lived in Charlottesville public housing are now just weeks away from getting money back for overpaying utility bills over several years.

They had their day in federal court Monday afternoon. The original complaint from six residents expanded into a class-action suit. Monday, all 436 public housing residents eligible to get cash back had the opportunity to speak in front of the federal judge at a fairness hearing. None did, and only one filed a written objection.

Attorneys with the Legal Aid Justice Center are representing the current and former residents of Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority (CRHA) properties. They say their clients were systematically overcharged for utilities over a six-year period and have reached a settlement with CRHA to pay back them back, to the tune of a little more than $100,000.

"It was a long negotiation," said Brenda Castañeda, a Legal Aid Justice Center attorney. "It took us several months to sit down with them and really look at the documents."

Legal Aid sent out notices about the settlement last month. They tracked down 395 of the 436 tenants owed money by the CRHA.

“We had some addresses from CRHA, and the rest of them we had to look for addresses,” Castañeda said. “Quite a few people actually called our office and said, ‘I think I'm affected and here's my new address.’ Ultimately, we were able to get a lot of good addresses and most people did get notice.”

Every tenant Legal Aid tracked down gets back a third of what they overpaid from 2007 to last May. Current and future tenants will receive monthly credits on their accounts for the next five years. Legal Aid estimates the civil suit's total settlement is worth half a million dollars.

Castañeda credits the CRHA for changing policies to make sure people living in public housing are paying fairly.

"I think it's also a good message to the residents that they can stand up for their rights and be heard and actually get a result," she said.

Some people will get a few dollars back, and others will get close to $1,000. The judge cannot issue a final order to distribute the settlement funds until after February 6. Legal Aid expects people who are due refunds will receive checks as early as late next month or early March.

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