Judge sides with Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority in eviction case
A judge has ruled in favor of the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority in its attempt to evict a woman from her affordable-housing unit because she ran afoul of eligibility rules.
The housing authority’s legal victory came against Amanda Tucker, a tenant at the city-owned Aspen Country Inn, a housing complex designated for seniors and low-income individuals and families. A bench trial before Judge Paul Metzger was held Oct. 5 in Garfield County Court, which led to Wednesday’s ruling.
“This is full vindication for us and where we stood,” APCHA Executive Director Mike Kosdrosky said. “Even though we weren’t on trial, she made it about APCHA.”
APCHA filed an eviction complaint in June against Tucker, saying she had violated terms of her lease by failing to provide the agency with such qualifying information as income, assets and employment. APCHA also said Tucker’s annual income of $41,822, which included $15,048 in Social Security payments she did not report, exceeded the household income of $39,200 that is allowed for two tenants under her lease.
In the wake of APCHA’s litigation, Tucker, who is in her mid-60s and has lived in her unit with her son since February, went to various government boards claiming that APCHA had singled her out and was behaving vindictively against her.
“When you get beat up in the public like this, sometimes it is frustrating and discouraging,” said Kosdrosky, noting he doesn’t speak publicly about cases while they are in litigation.
Tucker said she plans to stay in her unit and will sue APCHA in federal court because she claims it has violated federal housing statutes by bringing about her eviction.
Tucker also filed a complaint against APCHA on Monday in Pitkin County District Court. That complaint, which she introduced to APCHA’s eviction case, accuses APCHA of examining her eligibility requirements only after learning it had “bad blood” with her more than a decade ago.
Tucker, a former anesthesiologist, was referring to APCHA forcing her to sell her affordable-living unit at Aspen Highlands Village, which she bought for $179,000 in 2005 as part of a foreclosure auction. After Tucker acquired the Highlands unit, APCHA learned she owned property in Hawaii worth more than $10 million, while APCHA had an $150,000 asset cap for Tucker’s purchase. A Pitkin County judge ruled in APCHA’s favor for Tucker to sell her unit; the Colorado Court of Appeals later upheld that ruling.
Typically, APCHA would not have allowed Tucker to lease a unit following the mid-2000s litigation, but Kosdrosky said she gained clearance because of an oversight.
“She was on the ineligibility list, and that was a mistake by our former senior property manager,” he said.
After learning that Tucker was an APCHA tenant who had been blackballed, “we decided to let her stay at Aspen Country Inn because it was our mistake,” Kosdrosky said.
Tucker’s current complaint says that APCHA provided her misinformation about income and employment requirements for Aspen Country Inn, and contends that “APCHA’s reputation is that they attack others while demonstrating undue leniency on others.”
As part of his order, Metzger also denied Tucker’s request to stay, or postpone, the judgment, according to Kosdrosky, who attended the hearing by telephone. The judge also said Tucker, who is bankrupt, breached her lease by failing to verify her assets with APCHA.
“The court referred to a bankruptcy filing identifying that she recently had exempt assets over $1 million and that it was reasonable for APCHA to verify the status of that,” Kosdrosky said. “Her failure to do so was a material breach of the lease.”
Tucker said, “APCHA thinks I’m hiding assets when I’m not. They have to prove what I’m hiding.”
Tucker’s monthly rent to live at Aspen Country Inn is $863.
She will have 48 hours to leave her unit from the time she is served with what is called a writ of restitution, which the judge cannot file with the court until 48 hours after his judgment issued.
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A ski season surrounded with uncertainty kicks off on Wednesday. The six inches of new snowfall Tuesday will allow opening of an additional 62 acres on Aspen Mountain, bringing opening-day total to about 160 acres.