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Cortez landlords pay to settle Section 8 housing fraud charges

Two landlords who rented homes to low-income residents in Cortez have agreed to pay nearly $74,000 to the federal government as part of a settlement in which they were accused of charging excessive rent to Section 8 tenants.

Deborah and Lawrence Conrads were accused of defrauding the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and violating the agency’s Housing Choice Voucher Program, according to a press release issued Monday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Colorado.

HUD’s voucher program provides low-income families, the elderly and the disabled with assistance to afford safe and sanitary housing in the private market. Landlords who agree to participate in the program receive housing assistance payments directly from the public housing authority each month to cover a substantial portion of the rent of a unit.

The maximum rent is determined by the public housing authority and the landlord agrees not to receive any payments from the family for rental of the unit other than the family’s portion of the rent authorized by the authority.

Federal officials say the Conrads extracted at least $18,000 in excess rent or “side payments” from a family as recently as 2014, even going so far as to enter into a lease extension that increased the rent on the family.

“When landlords take advantage of the Section 8 program by charging low-income families excessive rent, they undermine HUD’s mission to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all,” Acting U.S. Attorney Troyer said in a statement. “Landlords who defraud HUD face stiff civil penalties.”