ADDRESSING CLIENTS’ NEEDS DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

The original CDC eviction moratorium expired on July 31, 2021, before being reinstated with modifications on Tuesday, August 3. While the protections of the order are not automatic if the tenant has no declaration on file, it at least will allow courts to notify tenants before an execution is issued to give them the chance to go to court. That protection plus the protections created by Governor Lamont give tenants the possibility of staying in their homes while landlords get paid for rental arrearages.

Even the brief expiration of the CDC moratorium had an immediate and devastating impact on tenants in Connecticut. Without notifying tenants, the Connecticut courts issued 159 new executions on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of this week. That means that 159 families could have received notice that they had 24 hours to vacate their apartments, or a marshal would move them out.

The majority of the executions issued (73%) were from just three courts—Hartford (31%), New Haven (26%), and New Britain (16%). It is quite possible that some of these tenants had money paid on their behalf by UniteCT or had pending applications. Each of these courts serve communities that are majority BIPOC. The ongoing pandemic has had a greater impact on these communities than on majority white communities with more BIPOC losing their jobs, contracting the virus, and now, losing their homes.

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In today’s update:

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Eviction/mortgage delinquency statistics

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UniteCT Updates

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

  • 84,891 Connecticut tenants reported they were not caught up on rent while 75,958 reported they have no confidence in their ability to pay August rent.
  • 6,175 applications or 42% of the total fully submitted applications have been approved for payment of a rental and/or utility arrears. Nearly $48.8 million has been paid out or 12.2% of the total funding allocated to Connecticut;
  • Landlords have filed 3,003 new summary process (eviction) cases;
  • Courts have issued 1,477 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.

Racial and ethnic disparities continue: According to the latest data from the Household Pulse Survey, 49% of Latinx renters, 42% of Black renters, and 18% of people of two or more races who rent have little or no confidence they can pay next month’s rent compared to 11% of white renters.

In addition, 12.2% of Latinx homeowners, 15.8% of Black homeowners, 10% of Asian homeowners, and 12.5% of people of two or more races are not caught up on their mortgage payments compared to 5% of white homeowners.

Eviction and foreclosure moratorium status:

Connecticut Eviction Moratorium expired June 30, 2021. However, Governor Lamont has issued Executive Order 12D which has been extended through September 30, 2021. See below for details on the E.O. and the Judicial Branch’s efforts to implement that order.

The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s eviction moratorium has been extended to October 3, 2021. This protection is NOT automatic. It only applies to tenants who resides in a U.S. county experiencing substantial or high rates of community transmission levels of COVID-19. The CDC has found that all of Connecticut’s counties are experiencing substantial or high rates of community transmission levels. In addition, the tenant must demonstrate that they 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. IF A TENANT COMPLETED A CDC DECLARATION PRIOR TO JULY 31, THERE IS NO NEED TO COMPLETE A NEW ONE NOW.

Current foreclosure moratoriums:

  • Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac: (essentially) until August 31, 2021
  • HUD, Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Agriculture: These foreclosure moratoriums have ended. However, homeowners can still ask for a forbearance agreement. Homeowners or occupants living in single-family homes backed by an FHA mortgage are protected from eviction through September 30, 2021.
  • CFPB’s 2021 Mortgage Servicing Covid-19 Rule: The CFPB Covid-19 servicing rule will implement safeguards to prevent foreclosures from August 31, 2021 until December 31, 2021. The rules applies to most mortgages, not just federally-backed mortgages. Mortgage companies will not be able to start most foreclosures without reviewing homeowners for a workout option.
  • 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 is in place: Homeowners who are behind on their mortgages (except as they might be covered in the future by the CFPB Mortgage Servicing Covid-19 Rule) or who owe condominium fees, real estate taxes, or other real estate related taxes are not protected from foreclosure. Since January 1, 2021, 44% of all foreclosure actions filed were for non-mortgage foreclosures: 11% were filed by municipalities; 14% were filed by condominium associations; 15% were filed by private 3rd parties who bought tax and sewer liens from municipalities.

E.O. 12D and the Judicial Branch’s Implementation

Governor Lamont used his emergency powers to extend E.O. 12D to September 30, 2021. The order includes the following provisions:

  • Landlords must complete an application for the State’s UniteCT rental assistance program prior to delivering a notice to quit for nonpayment of rent. The UniteCT case number must be included on the Notice to Quit;
  • Landlords must give tenants a 30-day Notice to Quit if they intend to evict for nonpayment of rent, for lapse of time, or because the right to occupy a unit has terminated;
  • All Notices to Quit given for any reason must be delivered with information about the State’s UniteCT program and the federal CDC eviction moratorium in both English and Spanish;
  • Tenants have an opportunity to continue all terms of their rental agreement by paying outstanding rent within the 30-day Notice to Quit period;
  • If during any summary process (eviction) case, a UniteCT application is made, all proceedings in the summary process case must be stopped for 30 days or until a decision is made on the UniteCT application, whichever is earlier. If the UniteCT application is approved, the summary process case must be stopped until the UniteCT payment is made, and the summary process action is withdrawn or dismissed. 

To implement E.O. 12D, the Judicial Branch has instructed its Housing Court Clerks to review all residential non-payment notices to quit served between July 1, 2021 and September 30, 2021:

  • For the required UniteCT case number. Cases with defective notices to quit will be referred to the housing judge for dismissal or other action the judge deems appropriate;
  • To ensure that any notice has a quit date at least 30 days from the service date unless the notice is solely for serious nuisance;
  • To ensure that the notices were delivered with an English and a Spanish copy of the State of Connecticut’s UniteCT Flyer.

In addition, the Housing Court Clerks have been told:

  • If a clerk is notified of a pending UniteCT application prior to a summary process execution issuing, the clerk will ask the notifying party(s) to submit a written notification of the UniteCT application to the court for the judge’s review and entry of an order staying the proceedings. Clerks will not stop the application for an execution if the case is based solely on serious nuisance.
  • If an execution has already issued, the landlord and the tenant will be notified that an application for temporary injunction (audita querela) must be presented to the court for review and entry of an order stopping the move out. 

If during a mediation either the landlord or the tenant notifies the mediator that a UniteCT application has been submitted, then mediators will inform the judge about the application so that an order stopping the proceedings, which could include ordering a continuance of the matter for more than 30 days, can enter.

Information for tenants

What E.O. 12D means for tenants:

  • A landlord must complete an application for UniteCT before they send you a Notice to Quit for not paying rent. The notice must include the landlord’s UniteCT application number.
  • If you receive a Notice to Quit for any reason, the notice should include a copy of the UniteCT flyer in Spanish and English.
  • If you receive a Notice to Quit for not paying rent, you will have 30 days to pay the rent or apply for UniteCT. If all the back rent is paid within 30 days your, landlord cannot start an eviction case in court.
  • Any Notice to Quit for not paying rent or for lapse of time (meaning your lease was not renewed) must give you 30 days notice before your landlord can start a case in court.
  • If you receive a Notice to Quit, you never have to move out by the date on the notice. If you are still in the apartment after the date on the notice, your landlord can start a case in court to ask the court for permission to evict you.
  • If you have applied for UniteCT and you have to go to court do the following: 1) check the status of your application before you go to see if you have been approved; 2) have your UniteCT case number ready to share with the court; 3) tell the Judge or Mediator about your UniteCT application even if you have not been approved or you have not finished the application; 4) ask the Judge or the Mediator to pause your case for 30 days while you wait to see if UniteCT will pay your back rent.
  • You may also want to take a screenshot of your application status page and have that ready to share as well. If you have not yet applied for UniteCT, you must do so to receive the 30-day pause.
  • You can apply to UniteCT by going to https://portal.ct.gov/DOH/DOH/Programs/UniteCT. Write down your application number so you can share it with the court. Then notify your landlord by phone, email, and text that you have applied to UniteCT and ask them to complete their part of the application.

If the landlord refuses to participate in UniteCT, tenants should do the following:

  • Call the Connecticut Fair Housing Center at 860-247-4400 to do an intake. The Center is reviewing cases where the landlord refused to participate in UniteCT to determine if there is a violation of the Connecticut’s requirement that landlord’s accept housing assistance.
  • Apply for a security deposit and up to 12 months future rent to be paid to a new landlord through UniteCT.

Tenants whose landlords have a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac mortgage have additional protections: On July 28, 2021, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced that tenants of multifamily properties with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac (the Enterprises) who are subject to eviction for nonpayment of rent must be given 30 days’ notice to vacate before the tenant can be required to leave the unit.

UniteCT Updates

DOH continues to make changes to the UniteCT program to meet the needs of tenants and landlords. Check the UniteCT website and the guidance on the program frequently to get the latest updates. Currently, tenants eligible for UniteCT are entitled to:

  • Reasonable accommodations: People with disabilities who need assistance filling out an application for UniteCT or with any other aspect of the program, should send an email to UniteCTReasonableAccommodation@ct.gov or call 1-844-864-8328 and ask for a reasonable accommodation such as someone to help fill out an application, or upload documents, or any other change in the application process or program that will help the person who is disabled participate in the program.
  • Qualifying census tract: Applicants for UniteCT who live in census tracts where the majority of people have income at or below 80% of AMI are not required to upload any income documentation. The UniteCT pre-application will make the determination as to whether the applicants lives in a qualifying census tract.
  • Participation in other benefit programs qualify a tenant for UniteCT:  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;
  • $15,000 in rental arrearage payments: Tenants will now be eligible to receive up to $15,000 in rental arrearage payments for any rent owed after March 13, 2020 regardless of the number of months owed. If, based on the application, it is clear the tenant needs more than $15,000 to clear their arrearage, UniteCT will review the application and determine if additional funds will be paid;
  • No need to write-off 15% of arrears:  Landlords will not be required to write-off 15% of the rental arrearage;
  • Tenants not obligated to contribute to future rent for 3 months: 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;
  • Public and subsidized tenants eligible:  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. At present, UniteCT staff are working with housing authorities to determine if there is a way for housing authorities to submit bulk applications on behalf of their tenants for the program.

The UniteCT mobile tech bus will be at the following locations for the week starting
August 9, 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. There are no stops scheduled for Monday August 9 or Friday, August 13, 2021.

Thomaston, CT

When:        Tuesday, August 10, 10 am – 3 pm

Location:   Thomaston Library, 248 Main Street Thomaston, CT

Contact:     Denise Martinez, dmartinez@newoppinc.org, 203-598-1781

Windsor, CT

When:        Wednesday, August 11, 10 am – 3 pm

Location:   Hopewell Baptist Church, 280 Windsor Ave, Windsor, CT, 06095

Contact:     Jasmine Hall, Hall@townofwindsorct.com, 860-285-1839

Putnam, CT

When:        Thursday, August 12, 10am – 3pm

Location:   Court House, 300 Grand St. Waterbury CT 06702

Contact:     Denise Martinez, dmartinez@newoppinc.org, 203-598-1781

Help for homeowners

Homeowner Assistance Funds—The American Rescue Plan includes money to prevent mortgage delinquencies and defaults, foreclosures, loss of utilities or home energy services, and displacement of homeowners experiencing financial hardship after January 21, 2020. The State of Connecticut is participating in this program and has already begun a pilot 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. Connecticut must next submit its program design for approval to the Treasury Department.

Fannie and Freddie expand use of interest rate reductions:  On June 30, 2021, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced that they would expand their interest rate reduction programs. Flex Modification terms will be adjusted for COVID-19 hardships making interest rate reduction possible for eligible borrowers, regardless of the borrower’s loan-to-value ratio.

CFPB issues rules to facilitate transition from the expiration of federal protections: On June 28, 2021, the CFPB issued rules to transition from the expiration of federal foreclosure protections. The rules take effect on August 31, 2021 and end on December 31, 2021. Under the rules, servicers can only start a foreclosure if the borrower:

  • Has abandoned the property;
  • Was more than 120 days behind on their mortgage before March 1, 2020;
  • Is more than 120 days behind on their mortgage payments and has not responded to specific required outreach from the mortgage servicer for 90 days; or
  • Has been evaluated for all options other than foreclosure and there are no available options to avoid foreclosure.

This protection applies to many, but not all, mortgages.

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 videos and materials available at www.ctfairhousing.org.

Additional resources

Welfare liens on real property will be removed:  As part of legislation passed during the 2021 legislative session, the Department of Social Services is required to remove all liens put on any property as the result of the receipt of medical assistance or cash assistance unless required by federal law. In the past, DSS put a lien on any property (like a house or a condominium) owned by a recipient, former recipient, or a legally liable relatives (someone who has a legal obligation to support someone who received benefits) of some forms of state medical assistance or cash assistance like TANF. The lien was equal to the amount paid in medical assistance or cash benefits. DSS can no longer put liens on property in an effort to recover any money paid out, unless it is required by federal law, and any liens that are currently on any property must be removed. If you have a lien on your property that has not been released, write to DSS at DSS.Resources@ct.gov.

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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