ADDRESSING CLIENTS’ NEEDS DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

On May 12, 2011, the Connecticut House of Representatives took the historic step of voting to create a right to counsel for tenants at a time when thousands of families are currently behind on their rent as a result of the coronavirus pandemic’s economic toll on Americans. Currently, nine cities have right to counsel programs for tenants in eviction proceedings and three states — Connecticut, Maryland and Washington — are moving forward with legislation to create such programs. The Center wants to thank Representative Brandan McGee for guiding this historic legislation through the legislative process and House Speaker Matt Ritter for ensuring that it was brought to a vote. The bill will be taken up by the Connecticut Senate next where it is expected to pass. Please join us as we work to ensure that tenants are able to keep their homes.

Sign up to receive this weekly update.

In today’s update:

Additional_resources

Applying_for_UniteCT

Eviction/mortgage delinquency_statistics

Fixing_UniteCT

Help_for_homeowners

Help_for_tenants

Moratorium_status

Problems_with_UniteCT

Tech_bus_schedule

Since March 15, 2021, when UniteCT began accepting applications:

  • Landlords have filed 1,494 new summary process (eviction) cases;
  • Courts have issued 548 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.

Mortgage delinquencies continue to rise: Information gathered by CoreLogic on mortgage delinquencies reveals that Connecticut currently ranks 9th in the country for mortgages that are 90 days or more past due.

Racial and ethnic disparities continue in recovery from pandemic-related economic hardship: According to the latest data from the Household Pulse Survey, 38% of Latinx renters and 24% of Black renters have slight or no confidence in their ability to pay rent next month compared to 13% of white renters.

In addition, 22% of Latinx homeowners, and 11% of Black homeowners have slight confidence in their ability to pay their mortgage next month compared to 2% of white homeowners.

Changes to UniteCT

The US Treasury Department published new guidelines to ensure tenants receive help quickly: On May 7, 2021, the U.S. Treasury sent out new guidance on nine enhanced policies to directly aid renters, prevent evictions, and help tenants transition to secure housing. To ensure that emergency rental assistance quickly reaches the tenants who need it most, the new guidance:

  1. Directs programs to offer assistance directly to renters if landlords choose not to participate.
  2. Cuts in half the wait time for assistance  to renters when landlords do not participate
  3. Allows tenants to apply directly for assistance even if their landlord won’t participate
  4. Encourages financial assistance to support renters finding new housing.
  5. Protects renters from eviction while payments are being made on their behalf.
  6. Prohibits grantees from establishing documentation requirements that would reduce participation.
  7. Reduces burdensome documentation by allowing programs to verify eligibility of low-income renters based on readily available information or “proxies.”
  8. Prohibits programs from denying assistance to eligible residents solely because they live in federally assisted housing.
  9. Requires programs to document their prioritization of assistance to the renters most in need.

In response to the new guidance, UniteCT has announced that it will no longer require 8 weeks of income verification. Effective immediately, applicants need only provide 4 weeks of income verification. UniteCT workers are currently looking at applications that have been submitted to determine if any can be moved toward approval because the applicant has submitted 4 weeks of income verification.

In addition, UniteCT will now provide benefits to tenants who live in public or subsidized housing. Anyone who has been denied benefits because they live in public or subsidized housing should contact doh-unitect@ct.gov immediately.

UniteCT has not yet announced other changes to make the program consistent with the new Treasury guidance.

Applying for UniteCT/advice for completing an application:

UniteCT’s emergency rental and utilities assistance is available for individuals with a household income at or below 80% of AMI who have experienced a financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Applications must be made on-line. A list of the documents which must be included with an application can be found here.  Visit https://portal.ct.gov/DOH/DOH/Programs/UniteCT to apply or call 1-844-864-8328 to get a referral to a community agency who may be able to assist tenants and landlords in applying.

Tenants denied assistance from UniteCT will receive notice with instructions on how to appeal the denial. A tenant has 14 days from the date of denial to appeal by sending an email to unitectappeal@ct.gov stating the reason for the appeal.

All landlords and tenants should apply for UniteCT to ensure that they receive the assistance they need to stay in their homes and have all eligible rental arrearages paid.

DOH has stated that it will meet with landlords to convince them to accept UniteCT rental payments even if the landlord states they will not participate in the program. Email DOH at doh-unitect@ct.gov if your landlord refuses to participate in the program. 

Tenants who have not received a confirmation email once their application is submitted should email: doh-unitect@ct.gov or call 1-844-864-8328.

Landlords who have not received a confirmation email once their application is submitted should email: doh-unitect@ct.gov or call 1-844-864-8328.

DOH hopes to be able to contact tenants with missing pieces of their application after they have hired additional staff. 

The UniteCT mobile tech bus will be at the following locations during the week of May 17, 2021:

UniteCT’s tech bus provides the necessary technology to apply for rental assistance. Tenants and housing providers who may not have access to the technology required to complete an application for rental assistance are encouraged to visit the bus. To learn more about the bus please contact the host agencies.

New Haven, CT

When: Mon, May 17, 10am – 3pm

Location: 133 Hazel Street, New Haven CT 06511
Contact: Robin Ladouceur, 203-777-6925 Ext 217

Bristol, CT

When:  Tues. May 18, 10am – 3pm

Location:  Bristol Youth and Community Services, 51 High Street, Bristol, CT 06010

Contact:    Aubrey Lee Minkler; aubreyminkler@bristol.gov

Guilford, CT

When:       Wednesday, May 19, 10am – 3pm

Location:  St. George Church, 33 Whitfield Street, Guilford, CT

Contact:    Tammy DeFrancesco, defrancescot@ci.guilford

Branford, CT

When         Thurs., May 20, 10am – 1pm

Location:   The Community Dining Room, 30 Harrison Avenue, Branford CT 06401

Contact:    Bobbi Jo; bevans@bhcare.org, 203-533-8456

Problems encountered by UniteCT applicants:

Under UniteCT, tenants must have written rental agreements to be eligible. If there is no written rental agreement, the landlord and the tenant must sit down together and write one. The rental agreement must have a holdover clause in it meaning that it has to say that the tenant has the right to stay after the agreement expires. Treasury guidance states that tenants who do not have adequate documentation of the amount of the rental obligation or the terms of their rental agreement may submit a written attestation. 

The attestation form on the UniteCT website cannot be used in place of paystubs or other proof of employment. This prevents people who are paid in cash from qualifying for UniteCT if their employer does not wish to provide the documentation.  Treasury guidance states that if an applicant cannot provide written documentation of income, an attestation form can be used.

Eviction filings are increasing and move outs that can be avoided are still happening because rental assistance is not getting distributed quickly or broadly.  

Tenants are in danger of losing their homes to eviction while they await a decision on their UniteCT applications. 

It has been reported to the Center that some large housing providers have stated that they will not participate in Unite CT and that certain landlord attorneys are advising their clients not to participate. DOH acknowledges that some landlords are refusing to participate because they believe their tenants have not made an effort to pay rent.

The tenant cannot find out what information is missing from their application. 

Outreach materials on the English-language UniteCT website are currently available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Kreyol, and Polish. 

The UniteCT website contains a button to translate all information into Spanish when the site is accessed on a computer, but not when accessed by phone or tablet.  The landlord and tenant FAQs on the UniteCT website cannot be translated into Spanish.

Tenants and their landlords are having trouble completing the online-only application because of lack of reliable internet access. In addition, the UniteCT website does not provide reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities who cannot access the UniteCT website or application.

The online application portal is not fully accessible for tools used by individuals with hearing and vision impairments. In addition, the UniteCT website does not provide reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities who cannot access the UniteCT website or application.

The online application’s “Help Portal” does not translate the instructions into any language other than English.  

Fixing UniteCT:

The Pandemic has inflicted serious and lasting trauma on Connecticut’s most vulnerable populations – particularly working-class renters. Families of color are disproportionately represented among those most severely impacted and most in need of housing stability and assistance. The State must recognize the impact of this trauma by making the vital rental assistance through UniteCT as accessible as possible.

Unfortunately, complex program eligibility requirements, the voluminous required documentation, and technical challenges make it unlikely that UniteCT will successfully distribute its more than $400 million in federal rental assistance.

The Center recommends the following changes to UniteCT to ensure stability and safety for Connecticut’s families: 

  1. Prohibit evictions and executions for any tenant who has a pending or approved UniteCT application; 
  2. Conduct adequate tenant and landlord outreach;
  3. Provide more intake support for tenants and landlords so that they can navigate the complex UniteCT system;
  4. Ensure that tenants are approved and appeals granted using equity-based strategies that is not based on whether the tenants “deserve” to be helped:
  5. Publish weekly data about the program o allow analysis of  the program’s  reach to Connecticut’s most vulnerable residents. This should include household demographics and georgraphic location of applications and data on approvals and denials.;
  6. The program encourages tenants to come to agreement on arrears not covered by UniteCT but also requires landlords to forgive a percentage of arrears; to make the program less confusing, remove the requirement that landlords forgive arrears and instead require those arrears to be treated as consumer debt; 
  7. Allow tenants to use the attestation form to certify their income if they receive cash income or cannot get documentation from an employer; 
  8. Remove the requirement that applicants upload a copy of any i.d. Treasury guidelines do not require that applicants have i.d. to apply and qualify.; 
  9. Remove the requirement that the tenant have a written rental agreement or work with a landlord to create a rental agreement. Instead, require landlords to use an attestation form or check off list that states the monthly rental amount, amount owed, and a statement that the tenant has the right to stay in the unit; 
  10. Automatically qualify tenants receiving TANF, General Assistance, SNAP and/or living in public or subsidized housing to apply without any additional documentation regarding income; 
  11. Fix the technical problems raised above including providing reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities who cannot access the UniteCT website or application;
  12. Notify tenants with disabilities that they have a right to reasonable accommodations when trying to fill out and complete an application.

Eviction and foreclosure moratorium status:

The Connecticut legislature extended the Governor’s emergency powers through July 20, 2021. This means the Governor has the authority to extend the moratorium on evictions but has yet announced doing so. This means that your landlord cannot start a new eviction case against you untilMay 21, 2021with some important exceptions. Review our fact sheet on the exceptions and make sure to respond to any eviction papers you receive. More information about the eviction process is available here.

The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) eviction ban will be in place through June 30, 2021. This protection is NOT automatic. It only applies to tenants who cannot pay full rent or other housing payments because they have lost income or have very expensive medical bills. To receive this protection, you must provide your landlord with a signed copy of the CDC declaration form. More information about eligibility requirements and how to complete the CDC declaration is available here.

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.

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.

Help for tenants

Visit the Center’s website for fact sheets on the Connecticut and CDC eviction bans and available rental assistance programs. FAQs about evictions, rental assistance, and housing discrimination during the Covid-19 pandemic are also available.

MORTGAGE FORECLOSURE

Mortgage mediation program in place until 2029:  On May 12, 2021, the Connecticut Senate passed a bill which extended the mortgage foreclosure mediation program until 2029. Mediation is mandatory for lenders who bring a foreclosure action and is effective at keeping homeowners in their homes while ensuring that lenders are paid.

For older mortgage news and data, please visit our website.

Help for homeowners

Foreclosure advice: The Center is holding Foreclosure Advice Virtual Sessions. Homeowners facing foreclosure can sign up for advice sessions over video or phone. These Sessions are in addition to the considerable number of videos and materials available at www.ctfairhousing.org.

Additional resources

The Federal Communications Commission has launched a temporary program to help families and households struggling to afford Internet service during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Emergency Broadband Benefit provides a discount of up to $50 per month toward broadband service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands. Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers. Eligible households can enroll through a participating broadband provider or directly with the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) using an online or mail in application.

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

Outreach:  To schedule trainings on COVID-19 protections for tenants, foreclosure prevention, fair housing or constituent outreach please contact Rashida Rattray, at rrattray@ctfairhousing.org

Translate »