Expand Good Cause Eviction Protections

H.B. 5233 C.G.A 2022

Expand Good Cause Eviction Protections (H.B. 5233)

Good Cause Protects Renters from Displacement

  • For over forty years Connecticut has prohibited no-fault evictions against renters who are at least 62 years old or have a disability and live in a building with five or more units, preventing their arbitrary displacement from their homes.
  • No-fault evictions more than doubled from Aug – Dec 2021 compared to Aug – Dec 2019, threatening to displace tenants who have few options in a tight rental market.
  • H.B. 5233 expands Good Cause protections to all renters living in buildings with five or more units, allowing residents to enjoy housing security and establish roots in their communities.

Landlords Are Protected Under H.B. 5233

  • H.B. 5233 continues to allow landlords to evict tenants where there is good cause to bring an eviction, such as not paying rent, violating the lease, or refusing to agree to a reasonable rent increase.
  • H.B. 5233 only applies to tenants living in buildings with five or more units, meaning most “mom and pop” landlords aren’t affected.

Good Cause Protects Renters from Discrimination

  • No-fault evictions are often motivated by illegal race, family status, disability, or other forms of discrimination, but it is difficult for renters to prove a no-fault eviction is discriminatory.
  • Many tenants with discrimination and retaliation defenses to eviction leave their homes before a no-fault eviction is filed to avoid eviction blacklisting.
  • People of color and women are disproportionately impacted by eviction – Black and Latinx renters in Connecticut are 2-3 times more likely to be evicted than white renters.
  • Expanding Good Cause protections reduces unnecessary evictions and mitigates their discriminatory harms.

Good Cause Helps Tenants Assert Their Rights to Safe Housing

  • Unscrupulous landlords threaten to file no-cause evictions against renters who speak up about problems, such as unsafe living conditions or discrimination.
  • Good Cause ensures tenants can assert their rights without fearing that a retaliatory eviction will force them from their homes and permanently damage their records.

How Can I Help Expand Good Cause Eviction Protections?

Contact your State Representative and Senator and ask them to support H.B. 5233. You can find their contact information here and use the template here.

Expanded Fair Rent Commissions

H.B. 5205 C.G.A 2022

Expand Fair Rent Commissions (H.B. 5205)

Rents Are Skyrocketing, and Tenants are Threatened with Displacement

•   Statewide, average rents increased 12% in the last 18 months and nearly 20% in the last year in some metropolitan areas, and rental vacancy rates are down.

•   Tenants across the state report receiving rental increases of 20% or more, often hundreds of dollars a month, for rundown apartments with code violations.

•   Lapse of time (no fault) evictions nearly doubled in 2021 compared to 2019, threatening to displace tenants who have few options in a tight rental market.

Fair Rent Commissions Let Tenants Challenge Unjustified Rent Increases

•   Fair Rent Commissions are municipal boards of volunteers that are empowered to (1) stop an unconscionable rent increase and reduce such rent to a fair level, (2) phase-in a rent increase, or (3) delay a rent increase until housing code violations are fixed.

•   The Fair Rent Commission law has existed for 50+ years. About two dozen Connecticut towns and cities have Fair Rent Commissions, which require minimal overhead, but cities like Waterbury, Middletown, New London, Meriden, and Norwich still don’t have them.

•   HB 5205, as amended, requires Fair Rent Commissions in cities and towns with populations of 25,000 or more, ensuring tenants in large and mid-size towns are equally protected from unjustified rent increases. It does not affect smaller towns.

•  State law sets (1) the standard for limiting rent (an increase or rental amount that is “so excessive… as  to  be harsh  and  unconscionable” C.G.S. § 7-148c) and (2) the factors the commission looks at in determining whether the increase is excessive (including the landlord’s costs, the apartment’s condition, and the rent for similar units).

Fair Rent Commission Process in Practice

•   A  Fair  Rent  Commission  isn’t  rent  control  —it only provides relief to tenants facing unconscionable rent increases who submit complaints and doesn’t regulate the market as a whole.

•   Municipalities have flexibility to decide the make-up of the commission (like the number of commissioners; the mixture of landlords, tenants, and homeowners; the appointment process; and the frequency of meetings.

•  Most cities and towns don’t have dedicated staff for Fair Rent Commissions, and the overhead is minimal.

•  A town clerk or a fair housing, social services, housing code, or other municipal employee typically accepts the complaints and acts as a liaison.

•  Most municipalities try to informally mediate between the landlord and tenant. Many complaints end in an agreement, like a smaller rent increase or a phase-in over time.

How Can I Help Ensure All Renters in CT’s Largest Towns and Cities May Challenge Unreasonable Rent Increases?

Contact your State Representative and Senator and ask them to support H.B. 5205. You can find their contact information here and use the template here.

Wolcott to Pay Group Home Providers $350,000 to Settle Housing Discrimination Case

For press comment please contact Fionnuala Darby-Hudgens, finn at ctfairhousing.org

A lawsuit brought by the Connecticut Fair Housing Center, on behalf of SELF, Inc, and L&R Realty has cleared the way for a group home for thirteen people with disabilities to open in the Town of Wolcott. The case was filed in 2020 to challenge the Town’s 2016 denial of zoning approval for the home. The Town denied the home a permit, because of discriminatory statements of neighbors and members of the planning and zoning commission. The consent decree settling the case requires the Town to grant zoning approval for SELF’s group home, adopt a new reasonable accommodation policy, modify its zoning ordinances for group homes, and pay $350,000 to the group home developer L&R Realty. It will also pay $10,000 to the United States, a co-plaintiff in the case.

SELF, Inc. provides supportive housing for adults with mental health disabilities. In 2015, SELF tried to relocate its program from Waterbury to Wolcott so residents could live in a lower density residential sitting. Working with co-plaintiff L&R Realty, a Wolcott-based property developer, they identified a vacant property that had been used as a group home for adolescent girls. Despite receiving initial assurances that they would be able to operate, the Town Zoning Commission denied the plaintiffs’ permit application – after L&R made significant investments renovating the property. The denial came after public opposition to the plan because the home’s residents would be disabled. Even the Town Zoning Commission members made statements at the hearings about the residents such as “Are they aggressive?” and “without being insensitive, you said they have mental health issues.  Are they – is there anybody dangerous or –.”

While the application was pending, the Town amended its zoning ordinances to make it essentially impossible to operate a group home for adults within its border. After the zoning denial, the Town ignored the plaintiffs’ request to allow them to operate as a reasonable accommodation under the Fair Housing and Americans with Disabilities Act.

The Center’s Legal Director Greg Kirschner noted “SELF’s clients should not have had to wait this long to move to Wolcott. The Fair Housing Act guarantees the right of people with disabilities to live in housing of their choice. Towns and cities must ensure that they welcome all people regardless of their disability status.”

Plaintiffs filed suit in 2020 and were joined by the Department of Justice after the federal government conducted an investigation. Greg Kirschner and Staff Attorney David Lavery litigated the case for the Center with Stephen Dane of Dane Law, LLC a law firm specializing in discrimination cases.

DISCRIMINATORY ACTIONS BY TOWN OFFICIALS WILL COST CROMWELL $5 MILLON

On Friday, October 15, 2021, a federal jury found the town of Cromwell liable for the discriminatory behavior that forced the closure of a home for adults with disabilities in 2015. The jury awarded the group home provider, Gilead Community Services, $5 million in punitive damages and $181,000 in compensatory damages, sending a clear message to town officials that their actions violated federal civil rights laws.

In 2015, Gilead Community Services purchased a single-family home on Reiman Drive in Cromwell to serve as a community-based residence for six men with mental health disabilities. In response to the purchase, city officials in Cromwell staged a battle against Gilead and their clients through a series of overtly discriminatory actions making it clear that individuals with disabilities were not welcome.

Cromwell officials began their public attack during a forum about Gilead’s planned operations for 5 Reiman Drive, which gave town residents the opportunity to spew hatred and discrimination. The next day, Cromwell issued a press release asking Gilead to relocate the home. Then Cromwell petitioned the Department of Public Health to deny Gilead the ability to operate. When these strategies were unsuccessful, Cromwell wrongly issued a cease-and-desist order and refused to grant Gilead tax-exempt status as it had in the past. The actions of the Town of Cromwell caused Gilead to close the home.

“However, the true victims, the six men who only wanted housing free from discrimination, will likely never return to Cromwell, and now live with the understanding that because of their disabilities they are not welcome in all communities.”

Erin kemple, Executive Director for the Connecticut Fair Housing Center

“By making such a large punitive damages award, the jury recognized and rejected the intentional, illegal acts of town officials. I hope this serves as a message to other municipalities that they cannot refuse to allow people with disabilities to move into their communities,” said Erin Kemple, Executive Director of the Connecticut Fair Housing Center, one of the co-plaintiffs in the case. “However, the true victims, the six men who only wanted housing free from discrimination, will likely never return to Cromwell, and now live with the understanding that because of their disabilities they are not welcome in all communities.”

In 2017, the Connecticut Fair Housing Center and Gilead Community Services, represented by Washington, D.C. firm Relman Colfax, filed a civil rights lawsuit against the Town of Cromwell. The case claimed that the intentional discriminatory actions of town officials in Cromwell violated the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Call to Action: Stop Evictions

The Supreme Court has ended the CDC’s eviction moratorium. All levels of government must take immediate action to stop evictions and improve the distribution of rental assistance (and we must continue to organize tenants to take collective action to stop evictions, permanently).  

  1. Tell the state to stop evictions. 
  • Contact
  • Government Lamont must issue an executive order staying all evictions and new eviction filings until the Right to Counsel for Tenants program goes into effect, and his emergency authority should be extended to facilitate this.
  • Government Lamont’s existing executive order requiring landlords to apply for UniteCT before filing evictions and temporarily staying evictions when a UniteCT application is made must be improved, extended for the duration of the pandemic, and continue to remain in effect once the Right to Counsel for Tenants program begins. The order must:
    • Require all landlords with pending eviction cases to apply for UniteCT (which means accepting the funds and withdrawing the case if the application is approved);
    • Automatically stay eviction cases and executions if a tenant or landlord applies for UniteCT;
    • Stay eviction cases and executions until the UniteCT application is fully processed and any payment is made;
    • Clarify that LLs must participate in or accept UniteCT, and that a refusal to do so is unlawful source of income discrimination and that failure to submit a complete UniteCT application prior to starting an eviction case is also in violation of the EO; 
    • Require landlords and UniteCT to notify the court when UniteCT funds have been issued to the landlord so that the court can automatically dismiss the case;
    • Missed rental payments or evictions during the pandemic or caused by the pandemic cannot be used as a basis to deny rental housing or reported to tenant screening companies, credit reporting agencies, or future landlords.
  • The CT Judicial Branch must automatically stay all executions and ejectments for the duration of the public health emergency, as it did through August of 2020.
  1. Tell Congress to pass an eviction moratorium. 
  • Contact your congressional representatives:
    • Senator Murphy, (860) 549-8463
    • Senator Blumenthal, 860.258.6940
    • Your representative:
      • Rep. Larson, 860.278.8888
      • Rep. Courtney, 860.886.0139
      • Rep. DeLauro, 203.562.3718
      • Rep. Himes, 866.453.0028
      • Rep. Hayes, 860.223.8412
  • Congress must immediately pass a moratorium on all evictions for the duration of the pandemic, regardless of the reason for eviction.
    • The moratorium must be automatic, and require no documentation or declaration from tenants
    • It must mandate that no new evictions may be filed, evictions in progress must be stayed, and executions must be stayed. 
  1. Ask municipal officials to take action to protect tenants from eviction.
  • Ask city councilors and the mayor to mandate that all landlords operating in the town/city participate in and accept UniteCT money, and to state that a refusal to do so is unlawful source of income discrimination and that failure to submit a complete UniteCT application prior to starting an eviction case is also in violation of the EO. 

Ask the local housing authority to stay all evictions and executions for the duration of the pandemic.

ADDRESSING CLIENTS’ NEEDS DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

ADDRESSING CLIENTS’ NEEDS DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

July 2, 2021

On June 30, 2021, the Connecticut eviction moratorium expired. However, Governor Lamont has issued Executive Order 12D which took effect on July 1. The order has the following provisions:

  • 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;
  • if you have applied for UniteCT and you have a case in court, then you should tell the Judge about your UniteCT application. If you have not yet applied for UniteCT you must do so to be covered by this part of these protections provided by the Governor’s recent executive order.

On June 24, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control extended its eviction moratorium until July 31, 2021.

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

  • applications or 28.6% of the total fully submitted applications have been approved for payment of a rental and/or utility arrears. This represents $23 million in expenditures or about 6% of the total funding allocated to Connecticut;
  • people have entered homeless shelters. Only 25.3% of those exiting shelter went into permanent homes;

Racial and ethnic disparities continue in recovery from pandemic-related economic hardship: According to the latest data from the Household Pulse Survey, 36% of Latinx renters, 41% of Black renters, and 16% of people of two or more races are not caught up on their rent compared to 8% of white renters.

In addition, 23% of Black homeowners and 27% of people of two or more races are not caught up on their mortgage payments compared to 3% of white homeowners.

Consequences of Eviction

The more than  130,000 tenants who currently owe rent as the result of the COVID-19 crisis are likely to suffer the following consequences when evicted:

  • With 2,560 people already living in shelters, many tenants who are evicted will double up with friends or family, or sleep in cars, parks, or other outdoor settings.
  • Recent studies have shown that neighborhoods with the highest eviction rates have the lowest levels of COVID-19 vaccinations. Evictions will result in spreading the virus and its newest variants throughout the State.
  • Since 2017, the Center has been evaluating the effect of eviction when people search for new housing. The testing reveals that an eviction is almost certain to lead to the denial of a new unit. More than 39% of landlords indicated they would not rent to someone with an eviction record while 61% said that if the tenant could prove the eviction was withdrawn or that the tenant was permitted to stay in the unit, they would overlook the eviction record.
  • . A study of mothers evicted during their pregnancies revealed that eviction harms infant health and development.

President Biden announces initiatives to support vulnerable tenants and homeowners:      

The Biden-Harris Administration announced a series of actions to help state and local governments prevent evictions and foreclosures and promote housing stability. The Administration is calling for an acceleration of the distribution of ERA funds to renters and landlords in addition to an all hands-on-deck effort by local governments, courts, community organizations, and the legal community to create alternatives to evictions. The strategies deployed include asking state and local courts to participate in eviction diversion efforts; using ARP money to prevent unnecessary evictions; accelerating and broadening state and local delivery of emergency rental assistance; ensure the 30-day eviction notice requirement for Federally-backed properties is enforced; make clear the Fair Housing Act must be followed; and leverage government channels to reach vulnerable tenants and landlords.

To prevent foreclosures, the Biden administration is extending the foreclosure moratorium for mortgages backed by HUD, the VA, USDA, and the FHFA until July 31, 2021. Once the moratoria end, HUD, VA, and USDA will take additional steps to prevent foreclosures on mortgages backed by those agencies until borrowers are reviewed for COVID-19 streamlined loss mitigation options that are affordable. The FHFA will continue to work with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to ensure that borrowers are evaluated for home retention solutions prior to any referral to foreclosure. 

Eviction and foreclosure moratorium status:

Connecticut Eviction Moratorium expired June 30, 2021. However, Governor Lamont has issued Executive Order 12D which took effect on July 1. Tenants: if you have applied for UniteCT and you have a case in court, then you should tell the Judge about your UniteCT application.

The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s eviction moratorium has been extended to July 31, 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.

Current foreclosure moratoriums:

  • until August 31, 2021
  • until July 31, 2021
  • The CFPB final servicing rule will implement a foreclosure moratorium from August 31, 2021 until December 2021 that applies to most mortgages, not just federally-backed mortgages. Under the rules, servicers can only start a foreclosure if the borrower:

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.

UniteCT Updates

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:

  • 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;
  •   Landlords will not be required to 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;
  •   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;
  • : DOH is holding meetings with landlords to inform them of the changes in the program and to encourage them to participate. Go to www.unitct@ct.gov to see the latest training or to sign up for the next available training.

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.
  •   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.

The UniteCT mobile tech bus will be at the following locations for the week starting
July 6, 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.

Bridgeport, CT

When:        Tuesday, July 6, 10am – 3 pm

Location:   Park City Communities, P.T. Barnum Apartments, 96 Bird St. Bridgeport

Contact:    Mayra Ramirez, mramirez@bridgeporthousing.org, 203-337-8870

New Haven, CT

When:        Wednesday, July 7, 10 am – 3 pm

Location:   NeighborWorks New Horizons, 730 George Street, New Haven

Contact:    Zabrina Roman, Zabrina@nwnh.net, 203-676-5915

Bridgeport, CT

When:        Thursday, July 8, 10am – 3pm

Location:   Park City Communities, Green Homes, 629 Washington Ave. Bridgeport

Contact:    Greg Johnson, gjohnson@parkcitycommunities.org, 203-337-8886

Waterbury, CT

When:       Friday, July 9, 10 am – 3 pm

Location:  Martin Luther King Jr Park, 449 North Main St, Waterbury

Contact:    Emmanuel Cruz, ecruz@nhswaterbury.org, 203-558-4547

Addressing UniteCT Issues

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: 

  • 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. 
  • Treasury guidance states that if an applicant cannot provide written documentation of income, an attestation form can be used.
  •  
  •  The landlord and tenant FAQs on the UniteCT website cannot be translated into Spanish.
  •  In addition, the UniteCT website does not provide reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities who cannot access the UniteCT website or application.
  • providing reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities who cannot access the UniteCT website or application;

Help for tenants

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

Help for homeowners

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.

FHFA closes gap between Fannie and Freddie moratorium and CFPB servicing moratorium: On June 29, 2021, FHFA announced it would extend its moratorium to protect borrowers until CFPB moratorium starts. The CFPB final rule prohibits servicers from making a first notice or filing for foreclosure in most cases covered by the rule before December 31, 2021. Servicers will still be able to make a notice or filing for foreclosure on abandoned properties and those that had a foreclosure referral prior to March 2020, along with certain other exceptions. CFPB’s final rule will take effect August 31, 2021.

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

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

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 July 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

ADDRESSING CLIENTS’ NEEDS DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

June 18, 2021

“If society wants us to keep caring for others, it’s going to have to show a little more care for us.”— author Kate Washington. While these words were said in 2015 regarding women forced to provide health care to their families while also holding down a job and raising children, it is true now more than ever. During the pandemic, working women bore the brunt of the caretaking, childrearing, and remote learning supervision while poor women of color struggled to find the resources to pay for food, rent, clothing, internet access, and transportation.

That society also needs to provide more care for caretakers applies to the legions of people who have been addressing the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether it is teachers trying to teach remotely, social service workers helping meet basic needs, or lawyers representing low-income people whose lives have been upended by the pandemic, we are exhausted. The stress of telling people who are desperate “no there is nothing we can do” has worn us down and feels especially insane when there is over $400 million is available to make landlords whole. However, to date the State has been able to distribute less than 3.5% of the funds. There is no reason for a single family to face the disruption and harm resulting from losing their home to eviction and no reason for society to incur the costs associated with evictions. Yet, we are forced to continue to tell our clients that there is often no help available. That there is no way to make the landlord accept money from UniteCT and to stop an eviction. That there is often nothing we can do.

Our feelings are often referred to as burnout. But burnout does not adequately convey what many of us are going through. You can be burned out on your workout routine and it will not affect your family. Feeling helpless and stressed because you cannot address the real and urgent needs of people who are seeking your help not only makes people feel ineffective at work but also affects the rest of their lives. Too many people who have been stalwart advocates and allies are emotionally exhausted and falling by the wayside even as others see hope.

           Fortunately, we do not have to wait for society or the government to care for the caretakers. Social service agencies and the advocates who work with them can take care of their staff by providing more benefits: more time off, more flexible work hours, fewer mandatory meetings, reducing staff email, and even limiting the number of people served. A colleague recently told me he decided not to apply for new funding because his staff could not handle new tasks without causing additional stress and overwork. He chose to treat his program’s biggest financial investment, his staff, the way he treats other financial investments. Just as he would not overwork a printer or copy machine because it will breakdown, he is not overworking staff.

After 15 months of a 300% increase in the need for our services, the successful passage of a Right to Council in eviction cases, and the recognition that burnout puts our most valuable investment at risk, we are taking some time for rest. Staff will continue to work remotely which will give them more flexible hours. Please keep this in mind if there is a delayed response to your email, call, or request for assistance.  Please provide care for the caretakers who have stood beside us and worked to ameliorate the effects of the pandemic and give them permission to take care of themselves.

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Click on the links below for information about UniteCT and help for homeowners and tenants.

Additional resources

Applying for UniteCT

Help for homeowners

Help for tenants

Moratorium status

Tech bus schedule (scroll to the bottom of the page)

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

Connecticut Should Use Federal Relief Money to Guarantee Tenants Legal Representation

by Salmun Kazerounian and Sarah White

The Center has endorsed a campaign to make Connecticut the first state to guarantee tenants legal representation in evictions. Nationally, eight cities have created a right to counsel for tenants, two other states are on the verge of creating statewide programs, and many more are considering it as we face an eviction crisis of epic proportions. 

H.B. 6531, which would create a right to counsel for tenants in evictions in Connecticut, passed the Housing Committee in March following a public hearing showing broad community support for the bill. Governor Lamont and the legislature now have a historic opportunity to use federal relief money to fund the right to counsel program through the end of 2024.

Jurisdictions that have passed right to counsel have seen extraordinary results. In New York City—the first jurisdiction to pass right to counsel—86% of tenants facing evictions who receive representation stayed in their homes. Cleveland, which just implemented a right to counsel, found that 93% of evictions were prevented in just the first 6 months. San Francisco experienced a 10% reduction in eviction filings in the first year, before the program was even fully implemented, with 67% of represented tenants staying in their homes. 

The Center’s analysis of eviction records in Connecticut from 2019 supports that we will likely see similar reductions in evictions and forced displacement if Connecticut guarantees legal representation to tenants. 

In 2019, fewer than 7% of residential tenants had legal representation in their eviction cases, compared to more than 80% of landlords. Our estimate is that the number of Black and Latinx tenants with legal representation is even smaller–just 5% of Black and Latinx residential tenants had lawyers.

Legal representation dramatically reduced the likelihood that the court would issue an execution–the final order that permits a marshal to remove a tenant. 44% of residential eviction cases in which the tenant did not have counsel resulted in the court’s issuance of an execution. That is compared to only 21% of cases in which tenants had counse

These results suggest that, with counsel, tenants are less than half as likely to be forcibly removed from their homes by a marshal. The likelihood of a residential eviction case being withdrawn also more than doubled when tenants had counsel.

Legal representation also improved the results of mediation. When the tenant was unrepresented in mediation and entered into a stipulated judgment, an execution was still issued 38% of the time. When the tenants had a lawyer and entered into a stipulated judgment, an execution was issued just 2.9% of the time. This suggests that stipulations entered into by tenants with legal representation are much more likely to be successful and to end in reinstatement, meaning the tenant gets to stay in their home and avoids eviction. Everyone benefits when tenants have legal representation.   

Connecticut can fund a right to counsel program for tenants for three and a half years using a tiny fraction of the more than $2.6 billion dollars in federal relief money it will receive under the American Rescue Plan act.  And over time, the state will save money 2 to 12 times greater than its investment, including in shelter costs, emergency services, and the other collateral costs of eviction and homelessness.

You can add your voice to ours in urging Governor Lamont and the legislature to pass H.B. 6531 and fund a right to counsel program for tenants. Find out how here.

PUBLIC AND SUBSIDIZED TENANTS NO LONGER ELIGIBLE FOR UniteCT

As of April 12, 2021, the UniteCT guidelines state: 

Applications will be deemed ineligible if: 

  • Applicant is currently receiving other federal or state housing assistance. (emphasis added) 

This represents a significant change from the program guidelines (no longer available on the DOH website) published on March 15, 2021 which stated:  

An eligible household that occupies a federally subsidized residential unit may receive UniteCT ERA assistance, provided that UniteCT ERA funds are not applied to costs that have been or will be reimbursed under any other federal assistance. If an eligible household received a monthly federal subsidy and the rent is adjusted according to changes in income, the renter household may receive UniteCT ERA assistance for the tenant-owed portion of rent or utilities that is not subsidized. An analysis of income and sources of assistance will be performed in order to ensure no duplication of benefits exists. (emphasis added). 

This change may have long lasting effects because: 

  • Denying rental assistance to people with housing subsidies or tenants in public housing has a disparate impact on people of color. In Connecticut, 71% of people in subsidized are people of color.  
  • Tenants evicted from subsidized units because of rental arrears will lose their housing and their subsidies. 
  • Many housing authorities and subsidized housing providers will not rent to tenants with an eviction record. As a result, eviction for nonpayment of rent will disqualify many tenants from subsidized housing in the future. 

Resources for tenants and homeowners:  

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

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