ADDRESSING CLIENTS’ NEEDS DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

March 5, 2021 

“There is no basic human need that housing doesn’t touch.”—John Pollack, Coordinator of the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel who testified at the Housing Committee public hearing on March 4, 2021 in support of a Right to Counsel for Tenants. He also confirmed that evictions are a racial justice issue. Black and Latinx families are twice as likely to have evictions filed against them as white families. The Center is working with tenants and advocates to ensure that tenants are represented when they are in danger of losing their homes to eviction. Please join us

Since the public health emergency began on March 10, 2020, landlords have taken steps to move tenants out: 

  • Landlords have filed 4,071 new summary process (eviction) cases in court. 
  • Courts have issued 1,122 executions—Once a court issues an execution order, the landlord can hire a state marshal to remove the tenant and their belongings from the unit. 
  • Tenants who have eviction cases filed against them or whose landlords have obtained executions are in danger of losing their homes and are at greater risk of contracting and spreading the coronavirus. 

What’s happened since February 25, 2021: 

People of color uncertain they will be able to pay rent:  According to the latest data from the Household Pulse Survey, 42% of Latinx and 51% of Black families have little or no confidence in their ability to pay rent in March compared to 14% of white families. 

Few tenants have attorneys when losing their homes:  Over the last three months, 593 tenants were in Housing Court responding to a summary process eviction case; 28 tenants had an attorney while a majority of the landlords had attorneys. Only 7% of tenants facing eviction last year had an attorney. The Connecticut General Assembly’s Housing Committee heard testimony on H.B. 6531, a bill which would guarantee tenants a right to counsel in eviction cases. Speaker of the House Ritter and Senate President Pro Tem Looney are also in support of the bill. As Senator Looney said, providing attorneys to tenants in eviction is a matter of equity. Learn how to get involved in the movement to pass H.B. 6531. 

Cost effectiveness of providing attorneys for tenants in eviction:  Philadelphia and Baltimore, which are among the seven cities that have adopted a right to counsel, calculated savings of $12.74 and $6.24 (respectively) for every $1 invested in right to counsel. This amounts to an annual savings of $45.2 million for Philadelphia and $35.6 million for Baltimore. Massachusetts, one of at least seven other states currently considering a statewide right to counsel, studied the estimated impact and calculated savings of $2.40 in the direct costs of homelessness for every $1 invested in providing tenants legal representation for a total savings of $63 million for a program that would cost around $26 million, and it does not even include likely savings from educational, transportation, court, and other costs. On average, each eviction results in thousands in public costs, including for shelters and homeless services, emergency services, healthcare, educational expenses and transportation, and child welfare. Connecticut’s looming eviction crisis has been estimated to cost between $628 million and $1.2 billion, with an average estimated cost per household of nearly $9,500. Providing legal representation to tenants is just a fraction of this cost. 

Utilities seek permission to resume shut-offs:  Eversource and United Illuminating have requested permission to end a shut-off moratorium that gave relief to customers during the COVID pandemic. Lamont along with the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection said it’s too early to resume shut-offs. The state is also asking the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) to consider extending repayment terms past 24-months for the COVID repayment plan. In its request to resume shut-offs, Eversource said it would send affected customers a transition letter and email that will remind them of COVID-19 payment plans, hardship protections, and any programs for which they may be eligible. Customers who enroll in a COVID-19 payment program can pay their past-due bills over a 24-month period without risk of having their utilities shut off. PURA has not indicated when it will rule on the requests. 

Connecticut residents can register for an appointment to get a COVID-19 vaccine: At present, Connecticut residents 65 and over qualify to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. Below is a table of eligibility for all Connecticut residents to receive a vaccine. 

Age Eligible for vaccination 
Ages 65 and older Now 
Ages 55 and older as well as school employees March 1 
Ages 45 – 54 March 22 
Ages 35 – 44 April 12 
Ages 16 – 34 May 3 

Appointments can be made on-line or by calling 860-972-4993 (Hartford HealthCare) or 860-679-4400 (UConn Health) or (877) 918-2224 (the state vaccine system). Deaf and hard of- hearing can access the Vaccine Appointment Assist Line through the Connecticut Relay Service by dialing 7-1-1.  The Assist Line is open seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The phone number to call for vaccination scheduling is: 877-918-2224.  

EVICTIONS 

State Rental Housing Assistance:  Although the Temporary Rental Housing Assistance Program is closed, tenants who applied for assistance can get information about the status of their application for assistance or email their questions to trhapinfo@ct.gov. The Department of Housing has created a new program to distribute $235 million in federal Emergency Rental Assistance funds that is scheduled to open on March 15, 2021. The federal legislation allows the State to pay up to 12 months of rent in addition to utility arrearages. Check the Department of Housing website for updates on how to apply. 

Homelessness Prevention Program: The Homelessness Prevention Program (HPP) run by the Coordinated Access Network throughout Connecticut is providing assistance to tenants at risk of becoming homeless. The program provides payment of some rental arrearages to people who have received a Notice to Quit from their landlord, have been unable to pay rent on or after March 1, 2020, and have income at or below 50% of the 2020 Area Median Income. To apply, tenants should call 2-1-1 and ask about the Homelessness Prevention Program. 

Rental assistance for people without legal status: The State’s rental assistance program for people without legal status is still open. To access this assistance, tenants should contact Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants (CIRI) at 1-203-612-5464 or rentalassist@cirict.org. More program information is available here, and a Spanish-language webinar is available here.   

Connecticut eviction moratorium extended until April 20, 2021: Governor Lamont has issued Executive Order 10A which extends the Connecticut eviction moratorium until April 20, 2021, the current expiration date of the public health emergency. Unfortunately, eviction moratoriums do not prevent rental arrears from accumulating without adequate rental assistance. The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston estimates that tenants who lost jobs during the pandemic owe more than $11 billion in rental arrears, while Moody’s Analytics estimates $53 billion in rental arrears is owed. 

CDC moratorium still in place:  Last week, a Texas court held that the CDC overstepped its authority in issuing an eviction moratorium. While the court decision is troubling, it does not affect the moratorium in Connecticut or any other state other than Texas. Tenants who qualify for the CDC moratorium should follow the instructions below. 

What should tenants know? 

The Connecticut eviction moratorium has four exceptions: Until April 20, 2021, a landlord may only serve a Notice to Quit or start an eviction case in court if the tenant: 

b) owes six or more months’ worth of rent that was due on or after March 1, 2020;  

a) owes rent that was due on or before February 29, 2020;  

c) created a serious nuisance; or  

d) has a lease that expired and the landlord has a bona fide intention to use the unit as 

the landlord’s primary residence. 

The federal CDC eviction moratorium’s protection is not automatic: Tenants not covered by the Connecticut eviction moratorium may still qualify for protection under the federal CDC eviction moratorium if they cannot pay their full rent or other housing payments because someone in their household lost income or has very expensive out-of-pocket medical bills. However, the CDC moratorium’s protection is not automatic and each adult in the household must meet specific requirements. To receive protection under the CDC moratorium, each adult in your household (18 or older) should:  

  • Read the Declaration form and its eligibility requirements carefully; 
  • Sign the Declaration form, if all the information is true about your situation; 
  • Give the Declaration form to the landlord; and 
  • Keep a copy of the signed Declaration. 

You can also use a CDC Declaration generator available in English and Spanish to (1) sign the Declaration form electronically, and (2) either email it to yourself and to your landlord or download and print it out. If you already have an eviction case in court, you should also give copies of the declarations to the court. 

Visit our website for English and Spanish fact sheets on both the Connecticut and CDC eviction moratoriums. 

Paying Rent: Tenants are still required to pay rent, even if they qualify for the Connecticut eviction moratorium or gave a CDC eviction moratorium declaration to their landlord. If you cannot pay your full rent, you should still pay as much of the rent as possible on time and keep any records of your payments. To be protected by the Connecticut moratorium’s ban on nonpayment evictions, you must keep the total amount of rent you owe below 6 months of rent. 

Applying a Portion of Your Security Deposit to Rent: Under Executive Order 9T, if you paid a security deposit that is more than one month’s rent, you can apply the portion that is more than one month’s rent toward rent that was due between April 1, 2020 and February 9, 2021. You must make this request to your landlord in writing and should keep a copy of your request. 

Responding to Eviction Papers: Tenants should not ignore eviction papers, filing deadlines, or notices about remote court events. Courts are entering Default Judgments against tenants who fail to file forms on time or attend remote court events. Once a Default Judgment is entered against a tenant, the landlord can ask the court for an execution. An execution gives the landlord permission to hire a marshal to remove the tenant. Learn more about the eviction court process

Remote Court Dates: Courts are scheduling remote trials, hearings, and mediations. Tenants should receive a notice from the court when a court date is scheduled. Tenants can also confirm if they have an upcoming court date by looking up their case on the Judicial website or contact the clerk’s office. Once on their case page, they can also sign up for email alerts about their case. If a court date is scheduled, tenants must attend either by video or phone—even if they have already given their landlord a CDC declaration. Tenant should make sure to send their email address and phone number to the email address listed on the court notice so that the court can send them a link to join the meeting via video or phone.  

MORTGAGE FORECLOSURE 

Fannie and Freddie extend time to apply for a forbearance to June 30, 2021:  The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac  will continue to offer COVID-19 forbearance to qualifying multifamily property owners through June 30, 2021, subject to the continued tenant protections FHFA has imposed during the pandemic. The programs were set to expire March 31, 2021. This extends the eviction protections in place for tenants in 5+ unit properties where the landlord has obtained a mortgage forbearance from Fannie/Freddie. 

Mediations resuming in foreclosure cases: On February 25, 2021, the Judicial Branch announced that it will resume scheduling mediations beginning on March 1, 2021. Premediation and mediation will take place involving non-mortgage foreclosures and cases that do not involve federally backed mortgages. At this time, all premediations and mediations will be held virtually, not in person.   

Connecticut is losing bank branches at more than twice the national rate: Over the last decade, the number of bank branches in the state has dropped by 201 locations, for an overall closure rate of 16 percent. The national closure rate over the same period was 6 percent. The recent announcement that PeoplesUnited is being acquired by M&T Bank Corporation increases the likelihood that bank branches will continue to close. A preliminary analysis of the proposed branch closures reveals that branches in communities of color or communities adjacent to neighborhoods of color will be closed at higher numbers than those in communities that are majority white. 

Recently released data shows extent of mortgage delinquencies in Connecticut communities: Using data from several sources, it is clear that mortgage delinquencies have been at very high levels in many Connecticut communities while the number of people with mortgage forbearances – people falling behind with the temporary permission of their mortgage companies – is also high.  

Federal extension of the foreclosure moratorium:  Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced an extension of their foreclosure moratorium to June 30, 2021. This announcement matches what the Biden administration had announced for FHA, VA, and USDA loans. This extension will also provide additional mortgage payment forbearance for those who qualify.  

No foreclosure moratorium on mortgages that are not “federally-backed” or non-mortgage foreclosures: Homeowners whose mortgages are not “federally-backed” or who owe condominium fees, real estate taxes, or other real estate related taxes are not protected from foreclosure. See our website for more information. 

Judicial Branch is scheduling remote hearings in foreclosure cases:  Since the week of September 14, the Judicial Branch has been scheduling hearings in foreclosure cases where an execution has been requested, a hearing or status conference if necessary, and, in some circumstances, where the foreclosure has not proceeded as quickly as the court would like. If a hearing has been scheduled, the homeowner is supposed to receive notice from court staff providing instructions on how to participate in a remote hearing either by video or phone. On December 17, 2020, the Center sent the Judicial Branch a letter reporting that self-represented parties in some larger judicial districts were being provided with only a few days’ notice by regular mail – for instance, being mailed a letter on Friday of a Monday morning hearing. The Judicial Branch recently reported that self-represented parties should now be receiving two weeks’ notice of any remote hearing. 

Affidavit required for foreclosure filings:  On September 24, the Judicial Branch issued a Standing Order that prohibits any foreclosure action from being filed or moving forward unless the bank or mortgage company files an affidavit stating that the loan is not a federally backed mortgage, is vacant, or is not in forbearance. If the affidavit is not filed with the Court, then the case may be dismissed.  

What should homeowners do? 

Foreclosure advice: The Center is holding Foreclosure Advice Virtual Sessions. Homeowners facing foreclosure can sign up for advice sessions over video or phone, and get some individualized questions answered in a way that they could at our in-person clinics or through the Judicial Branch’s Volunteer Attorney Program that we regularly staff during non-pandemic times. The program has been used by dozens of homeowners from across the state since it began last summer. Homeowners can sign up, answer a few short questions, and be set up with an appointment. These Sessions are in addition to the considerable number of videos and materials available at www.ctfairhousing.org

T-MAP program is shut down:  The T-MAP program is no longer accepting applications.  

Outreach: 

  • Public Official Outreach: Center staff continue to participate in Facebook Live, community Zoom meetings, and tele-townhalls with legislative officials. If you would like our assistance reaching your constituency, please contact our outreach coordinator rrattray@ctfairhousing.org
  • Staff continue to hold fair housing trainings and COVID-19 eviction and foreclosure prevention resource workshops via Zoom with social service agencies, direct service providers, community groups, and invested stakeholders. If your agency would find a short resource webinar or fair housing training helpful during this crisis please contact Rashida Rattray, the Center’s Education and Outreach Coordinator, at rrattray@ctfairhousing.org 

Resources for tenants and homeowners:  

More COVID-19 resources can be found on our website.  

VISIT OUR WEBSITE FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR FAIR HOUSING RIGHTS IN ENGLISH, SPANISH, MANDARIN, VIETNAMESE, FARSI, RUSSIAN, ITALIAN, KREYOL, ARABIC, KHMER, AND TAGALOG.  

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