Fair Housing COVID-19 Response Effort 4.14.20

ADDRESSING CLIENTS’ NEEDS DURING

THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

April 14, 2020

  • Click here to understand current tenant rent relief options.
  • Click here to find more details in our tenant FAQ.
  • Need to have your subsidized rent recalculated due to income loss? The Rent Recalculation Request tool can be accessed here in Spanish and English.
  • Save the Date: September 10, 2020 is our annual Richard and Mildred Loving Civil Rights Awards Reception

What happened on April 13, 2020:

  • Briefing on Unemployment Benefits: Connecticut Legal Services, Greater Hartford Legal Aid, and New Haven Legal Assistance are hosting a briefing to answer questions about unemployment insurance benefits on Thursday, April 16, at 12:00 pm.  Click here for details.
  • Governor issues an executive order regarding evictions: On April 10, the Governor issued Executive Order 7X, which expands protections for residential tenants. To read the Center’s updated FAQs on the how this Executive Order affects tenants, click here.
  • Help getting your CARES Act payment: Last week, the Treasury and IRS launched a new free-to-use tool to help non-filers register for Economic Impact Payments – the direct payments authorized by the bipartisan CARES Act. The tool was created as an option for those who don’t have a return filing obligation, including those with too little income to file.
    Visit gov and click on “Non-filers: Enter Payment Info Here”.
  • Public housing and voucher administration: HUD has issued guidance for public housing authorities and housing voucher administrators telling them they may make the following changes, among others, to their programs to better assist their tenants:
    • In the housing choice voucher program, the housing authority can choose to accept a landlord’s certification that no life threatening conditions exist in order to enter into a payment contract and begin making payments;
    • For in-place housing vouchers, the housing authority can choose to waive the pre-contract inspection and choose to accept a landlord’s assertion that no life threatening conditions exist in order to enter into a contract and begin making payments;
    • Choose to waive HUD’s rule of two-people per bedroom in order to accommodate someone who needs a place to stay during the COVID-19 emergency;
    • Providing oral briefings over the phone to tenants receiving housing choice vouchers;
    • Waive the requirement that permits absences of no more than 180 days per calendar year if the tenant is absent as the result of the COVID-19 emergency;
    • An increase in the payment standard can be put into effect as soon as it because comes effective and not just at the annual recertification date;

In addition, HUD’s guidance makes clear that it is critically important for housing authorities to have revised procedures in place to allow for the timely completion of interim reexaminations for decreases in family income. Any changes to interim procedures for reexaminations for decreases in income and any of the changes included in HUD’s guidance (found here) must be in writing.  To date, no housing authority has posted changes to any of its procedures for rent reexamination or changes to other policies or procedures online.

  • Outreach: Staff created a Rent Recalculation Request letter generator to help tenants living in subsidized housing ask that they rent be reduced as the result of a loss in come.  The Rent Recalculation Request tool can be accessed here in Spanish and English.
  • Outreach: The Center’s website traffic continues to increase daily with the highest number of hits coming on Friday of each week.
  • Outreach: Staff distributed this daily housing update to over 600 advocates and had more than 700 unique hits on the update on our website.  If you want this daily update delivered to your inbox, click here.

What has NOT happened:

  • Help for tenants who cannot pay their rent. Effective assistance for tenants includes:
    • Extending the May 1 stay on already issued executions.
    • Money to pay rent or utility bills for people whose employment is affected by the COVID-19 crisis.
    • Money for utility shut-off restoration once the moratorium ends and people are again faced with loss of utilities.
    • Making automatic adjustments to subsidized rents.
    • Setting reasonable time limits on landlord access to rental units.
    • Creation of a rent bank to help tenants who have lost their jobs pay rent.
    • Announcing self-help evictions are not allowed.
    • Ensure judgments dismissing summary process cases are being entered.
    • Keeping the eviction moratorium in effect long enough to allow tenants whose income was reduced to apply for and obtain relief benefits.
    • Additional lawyers to represent tenants in evictions and homeowners in foreclosure filed after the current moratoriums on filing new cases are lifted.
    • Housing counselors who can advise tenants and homeowners of the resources available to them to keep their homes after the current moratoriums are lifted as well as to avoid scams that may result in them losing money and their housing.
    • Additional mediators for Connecticut’s Foreclosure Mediation Program to assist the homeowners who will be faced with foreclosure actions once the moratorium on filing new foreclosure cases is lifted.
  • Bar on mortgage companies filing foreclosure complaints. About 500 have been filed since the Governor declared a public health and civil preparedness emergency.
  • Despite guidance from HUD on March 31, 2020, there has been no effort by housing authorities to notify their tenants of new procedures and requests for rent calculations during the current pandemic. We reviewed housing authority websites to determine what they were telling their tenants about COVID-19 procedures and whether there was any information in Spanish. The majority still have no information about changes to housing authority procedures in light of the current crisis. Click here for a summary of what we have found.
  • People continue to live in substandard conditions and cannot get assistance in moving out even though the conditions are harming them and their families.

What we are learning from our clients

  • The Center has nearly tripled its call volume during the past month compared to the same period last year. The majority of calls received by the Center and other housing advocates ask whether there is any assistance for tenants who cannot pay their rent.
  • The Center’s Rent Recalculation Request tool has been used to request a rent recalculation at least twice a day since it was created on April 1, 2020. The Rent Recalculation Request tool can be accessed here in Spanish and English.
  • Tenants continue to call because they are being asked to show their apartments to prospective tenants without regard to COVID-19 precautions. The Center is advising tenants that under Connecticut landlord/tenant laws they have the right to refuse entrance to anyone if it would cause a safety hazard.
  • Because not all mortgage servicers are participating in the federal or state forbearance programs, homeowners continue to receive notices of default.
  • Mortgage servicers continue to file foreclosure complaints.
  • Homeowners do not know what to do when they receive a foreclosure summons and complaint since many courts and court information centers are closed.
  • People without legal status continue to face deportation and are unable to access services to stay in their homes.
  • People who were laid off from their jobs as the result of the pandemic are moving in with parents and friends sometimes causing overcrowding or lease violations. Foreclosures of homeowners will now affect many more people.

 

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

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