ADDRESSING CLIENTS’ NEEDS DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

June 4, 2021

On June 30, the CDC moratorium on some evictions is scheduled to end as is the state eviction moratorium currently in place in Connecticut. As evidenced by the eviction statistics below, people of color have the highest risk of suffering catastrophic consequences once the moratoria end. Most places that lifted their local and state moratoriums have seen a surge of evictions. Indiana had a 658% increase in new evictions filed the week after it lifted its moratorium. Delaware had a 1806% increase in its first quarter without a moratorium. A similar increase would see Connecticut go from 670 monthly filings to between 4,408 and 12,093 monthly filings.

The State’s UniteCT program has done little to prevent the pending onslaught of evictions having paid out $7 million to a little more than 1,000 Connecticut households. It is estimated that at least 75,000 households will need assistance in paying the rent. The Connecticut legislature has the power to stop Connecticut’s most vulnerable citizens from losing their homes by 1) extending the eviction moratorium by law; or 2) requiring landlords and tenants to apply for UniteCT before any action is taken to evict a tenant. We urge the legislature to act before the session ends on June 7. Please join us as we work to prevent mass evictions and homelessness.

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In today’s update:

Additional resources

Applying for UniteCT

Changes to UniteCT

Eviction/mortgage delinquency statistics

Fixing UniteCT

Help for homeowners

Help for tenants

Moratorium status

Mortgage foreclosure updates

Problems with UniteCT

Right to counsel

Tech bus schedule

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

  • Landlords have filed 1,919 new summary process (eviction) cases;
  • Courts have issued 764 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, 37% of Latinx renters and 57% of Black renters have slight or no confidence in their ability to pay rent next month compared to 19% of white renters.

In addition, 28% of Latinx homeowners, and 24% of Black homeowners have little or no confidence in their ability to pay their mortgage next month compared to 8% of white homeowners.

Changes to UniteCT

The US Treasury Department published new guidelines to ensure tenants receive help with rent arrearages 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. In response to the new guidance, DOH has announced that it will make the following changes to the UniteCT program:

  • Eliminating the 6-month look back period. Tenants will now be eligible to receive up to $10,000 in rental arrearage payments for any rent owed after March 13, 2020;
  • Landlords will be eligible for payments of up to $10,000 for rental arrearages without any requirement that the landlord write-off 15% of the rental arrearage;
  • If tenants are eligible for prospective rental payments through UniteCT, the tenant will not be required to contribute any rent for the first three months of prospective payments;
  • UniteCT will use income proxies to determine eligibility. If an applicant lives in a low-income census block, the applicant will not be required to submit income verification. Instead, the applicant can sign a self-attestation that they have income at or below 80% of AMI and will not have to submit paystubs or tax returns;
  • Applicants who receive benefits from Medicaid, SNAP, TANF, State Administered General Assistance (SAGA), and the state supplement will be eligible for UniteCT without additional income verification;
  • The income proxy verification is not yet in place;
  • UniteCT will 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, legal services attorneys, and the Judicial Branch are meeting to expedite a process for tenants with summary process cases in court to get emergency rental assistance.

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 for the week starting
June 5, 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.

Milford, CT

When:        Saturday, June 5, 10am – 3pm

Location:   Beth-El Center, 90 New Haven Avenue, Milford, CT 

Contact:    Kelly Fitzgerald, kfitzgerald@uwgnh.org

Norwalk, CT

When:        Monday, June 7, 10am – 3pm

Location:   Norwalk Public Library, 10 Washington Street, Norwalk, CT

Contact:    Lauren Franciamore, laurenfranciamore@p2phelps.org 

Norwalk, CT

When:        Tuesday, June 8, 10am – 3pm

Location:   Norwalk Public Library, 10 Washington Street, Norwalk, CT

Contact:    Maria Escalera, MEscalera@norwalkct.org

Norwalk, CT

When:       Wednesday , June 9, 10am – 3pm

Location:  149 Water St, Norwalk, CT

Contact:    Angel Battle, abattle@alliancect.org

Bridgeport, CT

When:       Thursday, June 10, 10am – 3pm

Location:  East End Food Pantry, 1290 Stratford Ave, Bridgeport CT

Contact:    Keith Williams, 203-260-6731, dorie63@aol.com

Bridgeport, CT

When:       Friday, June 11, 10am – 3pm

Location:  New Hope Baptist church, 1100 Park Ave, Bridgeport, CT

Contact:    Olga De Aza, odeaza@alliancect.org

Waterbury, CT

When:       Saturday, June 12, 10am – 3pm

Location:  New Opportunities, 232 North Elm Street Waterbury, CT

Contact:    Olga De Aza, odeaza@alliancect.org

At a UniteCT bus event on May26, participants report the following:

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. 

People who are paid in cash may have difficulty qualifying for UniteCT if they do not live in a low-income census tract and 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. 

Tenants cannot find out what information is missing from their application. 

Tenants cannot edit incorrect contact information for their landlord making it impossible for some landlords to know about UniteCT and their tenant’s application.

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.

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:

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. Provide assistance directly to tenants whose landlords refuse to participate in UniteCT as required by the Treasury guidance;
  2. Prohibit evictions and executions for any tenant who has a pending or approved UniteCT application; 
  3. Conduct adequate tenant and landlord outreach;
  4. Provide more intake support for tenants and landlords so that they can navigate the complex UniteCT system;
  5. Ensure that tenants are approved, and appeals granted using equity-based strategies that are not based on whether the tenants “deserve” to be helped:
  6. Include data on all information collected in the UniteCT application down to the census tract level so that everyone will know if the program is reaching the tenants who are most in need;
  7. Remove the requirement that applicants upload a copy of a government identification. Treasury guidelines do not require that applicants have government identification to apply and qualify; 
  8. 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 as opposed to a written rental agreement; 
  9. Fix the technical problems raised above including providing reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities who cannot access the UniteCT website or application;
  10. 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:

Governor Lamont extended the Connecticut Eviction Moratorium through June 30, 2021. This means that landlords cannot start most new eviction cases untilJuly 1, 2021with four major exceptions. Review our fact sheet on the exceptions to the moratorium 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.

FHFA extends multifamily forbearance through September 30, 2021:  Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will continue to offer COVID-19 forbearance to multifamily property owners through June 30, 2021. In addition, tenants living in multifamily properties with a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac backed mortgage cannot be evicted for nonpayment of rent through September 30, 2021. Additional tenant protections include not charging tenants late fees or penalties for nonpayment of rent and allowing tenants flexibility in repayment of back rent over time and not demanding a lump sum payment. Finally, landlords evicting for reasons other than nonpayment of rent must give a 30-day notice.

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

Right to counsel passes the Senate:  On Tuesday, May 25, 2021, the Connecticut Senate passed legislation which gives tenants whose income is at or below 80% of State Median Income a right to an attorney during an eviction. On Thursday, May 27, the Connecticut House of Representatives passed the revised bill. The law is now on Governor Lamont’s desk for signing.

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

The CFPB’s research brief, “Characteristics of Mortgage Borrowers During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” shows the impact of the COVID-19 economic crisis on homeowners of color:

  • Loans in forbearance or delinquent are disproportionately likely to have limited equity, leaving those borrowers close to underwater and unable to easily sell their property. For example, half of all loans in forbearance have a loan-to-value (LTV) greater than 60%, compared to only 34% of current loans.  Borrowers who are behind on their payments but not in forbearance are more than five times as likely to have an LTV greater than 95% than borrowers who are current on their payments.
  • Forbearance and delinquency are significantly more common in communities of color (defined as majority minority census tracts) and lower-income communities (defined by census tract income quartiles).

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

Help for homeowners

Connecticut is using federal Homeownership Assistance Funds to assist homeowners delinquent on payments: The American Recovery Plan included funding for homeowners in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure. Connecticut will receive approximately $123 million. DOH is working with CHFA to pilot a program that will provide up to $20,000 in grants to homeowners whose income is at or below 80% of AMI and who are socially or economically disadvantaged. A pilot program is expected to begin in June 2021. Details will be posted on the DOH and CHFA websites.

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

Payments to help with internet access:  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

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