December 3, 2020
The Connecticut Fair Housing Center makes a commitment to fight on because too many people depend on us and our ability to fight for them. Neither the outcome of an election nor the spread of a deadly virus alters the fact that discrimination continues, and people are on the brink of losing their homes. Your support is needed now more than ever as we must fight on.
As Connecticut gets closer to the end of the eviction moratoria on December 31, 2020, the number of summary process case filings increases week by week. However, the number of cases filed since the courts fully opened in September do not give a complete picture of the extent of the housing instability faced by Connecticut residents. From now on, this update will include the total number of cases filed and executions issued since the Governor declared a state of emergency on March 10, 2020.
Since the pandemic began on March 10, landlords have taken steps to move tenants out:
- Landlords have filed 2,320 new summary process (eviction) cases in court.
- Courts have issued 522 executions—Once a court issues an execution, the landlord can hire a marshal to remove the tenant and their belongings from the unit.
What happened since November 19, 2020:
Studies show impact of eviction on COVID-19 infection and mortality rates: Two recently published studies evaluated the recent pandemic and its effect on tenants. In the first, covering the period March 13 – September 3, researchers found:
- After 10 weeks, states lifting their eviction moratoriums had infection rates at 1.6 times the rate of states that did not lift their moratoriums;
- After 16 weeks. states lifting their eviction moratoriums had infection rates at 2 times the rate of states that did not lift their moratoriums;
- After 7 weeks, states lifting their eviction moratoriums had mortality rates at 1.6 times the rate of states that did not lift their moratoriums;
- After 16 weeks, states lifting their eviction moratoriums had mortality rates at 5.4 times the rate of states that did not lift their moratoriums.
In the second study, researchers analyzed the public health and social science research on infectious diseases, COVID-19, and eviction outcomes and concluded that eviction during the pandemic increases health inequity among people of color. Eviction moratoria and supportive measures (like rent relief and legal counsel) are critical to preventing the spread of COVID-19.
New eviction cases filed in New Haven: The New Haven Independent interviewed three tenants who have had recent eviction cases filed against them because they were “seriously delinquent” on their rent. All three lost their jobs as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic and were unable to pay rent. None of them received assistance from the TRHAP program. Despite the fact that the State has more than $196 million in CARES Act funding left unspent, a spokesperson for the governor’s office said that funding is already nearly all committed to a variety of necessities, including paying for COVID-19 testing, personal protective equipment, and education. Housing does not seem to be a necessity.
Connecticut House Representative Brandon McGee calls on Connecticut to address housing inequities: Newly re-appointed co-chair of the Housing Committee, Representative Brandon McGee, wrote in an Op-Ed appearing in the Hartford Courant that “Having a stable space to call home places the rest of life’s necessities in reach, whether it be employment or health care. Kids can’t access a meaningful education when they don’t know where they’ll be sleeping night-to-night and implementing a statewide self-isolation policy can prove challenging when thousands lack a roof over their heads.” He called for universal freezes on mortgage, rent and utility payments for the foreseeable future or the creation of a rent bank that would provide money to those who lost employment due to COVID-19 and are unable to make their living expenses.
TRHAP is open: Tenants and landlords can apply online at www.chfa.org/trhap. However, the online form is still only available in English. Tenants who need assistance in Spanish and others who cannot apply online should call 1-860-785-3111 or 2–1–1. Tenants can check on the status of their application www.chfa.org/homeowners/trhap-submission-status-check. Tenants who are denied assistance may appeal by sending an email to TRHAPAPPEALS@ct.gov.
Public Access to Remote Court Proceedings Remains Limited: Since remote housing court proceedings began in September, the Judicial Branch has required that members of the public seeking to observe a proceeding present themselves in person at the courthouse and indicate that they want to observe a particular matter. The clerk, and possibly the judge, will be present in the courtroom while parties and counsel participate remotely. The Judicial Branch is not providing public links to observe proceedings via Microsoft Teams because of concerns regarding cybersecurity. The Judicial Branch is working on a mechanism whereby all matters will be live-streamed, but it is still in the planning stages.
Modifications to Connecticut’s eviction moratorium hurts tenants: On October 20, Governor Lamont issued Executive Order 9H, which changes the eviction moratorium issued just a few weeks ago. Instead of ensuring that the eviction moratorium covers most tenants, the new order places limits on the reach of the eviction moratorium at a time when the number of COVID-19 cases are increasing to levels not seen since early in the pandemic. There is a high risk that tenants and landlords will be confused about the reach of existing protections, and that some landlords will resort to intimidation to get tenants out.
- What Executive Order 9H does:
- Extends the Connecticut eviction moratorium to December 31, 2020 for some tenants;
- Requires landlords to serve a CDC declaration in both English and Spanish with any Notice to Quit permitted by E.O. 9H, except Notices to Quit for serious nuisance;
- Requires that any Notice to Quit or Complaint for a rental arrearage equal to or greater than six months’ worth of rent due on or after March 1, 2020 state the amount of the rent arrearage, the months for which rent was unpaid, and the amount unpaid for each of those months;
- Requires that any Notice to Quit for rent due on or before February 29, 2020 specify and recite the period of nonpayment; and
- Requires that any Notice to Quit based upon the bona fide intention by the landlord to use the unit for the landlord’s principal residence state that reason and specify the lease’s expiration date.
- What Executive Order 9H does NOT do:
- It does not prohibit landlords from starting an eviction court case if the tenant a) owes rent that was due on or before February 29, 2020; b) owes six or more months’ worth of rent that was due on or after March 1, 2020; c) has created a serious nuisance; or d) has a lease that expired and the landlord has a bona fide intention to use the unit as the landlord’s primary residence;
- It does not stop the courts from holding court proceedings and issuing Executions in cases that were filed before the Connecticut moratorium began, and in cases that are not covered by the Connecticut moratorium.
What should tenants do?
Tenants may not be covered by the Connecticut moratorium for various reasons, including that (1) their landlord filed an eviction case before the Connecticut moratorium began on April 10, 2020; (2) they owe rent that was due on or before February 29, 2020; (3) they owe six or more months’ worth of rent due on or after March 1, 2020; or (4) their lease has expired and the landlord has a bona fide intention to use the unit as the landlord’s primary residence.
- CDC Moratorium: Tenants not covered by the Connecticut moratorium may still qualify for the federal CDC moratorium if they cannot pay their full rent or other housing payments because someone in their household lost income or has very expensive out-of-pocket medical bills. However, the CDC moratorium’s protection is not automatic. Tenants should begin by carefully reading the requirements a tenant must meet to qualify for the CDC moratorium. If every person over 18 in the household meets the requirements, then each of those people should fill out a CDC declaration and give each declaration to the landlord. Information about the declaration and how to create one is also available in Spanish. In addition, there are online forms here and here that can generate the CDC declaration. A summary of both the Connecticut and CDC moratoriums is available here.
- Remote Court Dates: Courts are scheduling remote trials, hearings, and mediations. Tenants should receive a notice from the court when a court date is scheduled. Tenants can also confirm if they have an upcoming court date by looking up their case on the Judicial website. Once on their case page, they can also sign up for email alerts about their case. If a court date is scheduled, tenants must attend either by video or phone—even if they have already given their landlord a CDC declaration. Tenant should make sure to send their email address and phone number to the email address listed on the court notice so that the court can send them a link to join the meeting via video or phone.
- Responding to Eviction Papers: Tenants should not ignore eviction papers, filing deadlines, or notices about remote court events. Courts have begun entering Default Judgments against tenants who fail to file forms on time or attend remote court events. Learn more about the eviction court process here.
Assistance for people without legal status: The State’s rental assistance program for people without legal status is now open. To access this assistance, tenants should contact Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants (CIRI) at 1-203-612-5464 or email@example.com. More program information is available here.
211: Additional government assistance may be available through programs administered by local organizations and municipalities. Tenants may call 2-1-1 to confirm what rent and housing assistance is available in their area.
FHA loans still far more likely to be in forbearance than others: Recent reports on mortgage delinquencies reveal that 5.2% of all mortgages are in forbearance. FHA and VA loans continue to have the greatest number of active forbearances with 9.2% of those loans in forbearance.
Delinquencies at 80% of the Great Recession peak: A new report from Black Knight shows that 90-day delinquencies in September were within 80% of their Great Recession peak. These delinquencies are particularly high among FHA borrowers, who are disproportionately Black and Latinx, and FHA delinquencies overall are particularly high in Fairfield and New Haven Counties.
Affidavit required for foreclosure filings: On September 24, the Judicial Branch issued a Standing Order that prohibits any foreclosure action from being filed or moving forward unless the bank or mortgage company files an affidavit stating that the loan is not a federally backed mortgage, is vacant, or is not in forbearance. If the affidavit is not filed with the Court, then the case may be dismissed.
Judicial Branch is scheduling remote hearings in foreclosure cases: Since the week of September 14, the Judicial Branch has been scheduling hearings in foreclosure cases where an execution has been requested, a hearing or status conference if necessary, and, in some circumstances, where the foreclosure has not proceeded as quickly as the court would like. If a hearing has been scheduled, the homeowner is supposed to receive notice from court staff providing instructions on how to participate in a remote hearing either by video or phone.
What should homeowners do?
Foreclosure advice: The Center is holding Foreclosure Advice Virtual Sessions. Homeowners facing foreclosure can sign up for advice sessions over video or phone, and get some individualized questions answered in a way that they could at our in-person clinics or through the Judicial Branch’s Volunteer Attorney Program that we regularly staff during non-pandemic times. The program has been used by dozens of homeowners from across the state since it began this summer. Homeowners can sign up, answer a few short questions, and be set up with an appointment. These Sessions are in addition to the considerable number of videos and materials available at www.ctfairhousing.org.
Apply for T-MAP online: The number of successful applications for the State’s TMAP program remains low. TMAP now has an on-line application in English. It has not yet been translated into Spanish. To apply for assistance by telephone, call 1-860-785-3111. For more information about the program, click here
New app to track COVID-19 cases: Connecticut has a new way for people to track the spread of the virus and to know if someone you have been in close contact with has tested positive for COVID-19. COVID Alert CT is a voluntary, anonymous, exposure-notification smartphone app. Users will get an alert if you were in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19. Knowing about a potential exposure allows you to self-quarantine immediately, get tested, and reduce the potential exposure risk to your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and others.
Utilities must continue to offer payment plans to customers: Utilities must now extend the availability of the 24-month COVID-19 payment plans until February 9, 2021. Any customer can call their utility company to set up a payment arrangement. COVID-19 payment plans are:
- Available to any customer requesting financial assistance, without demonstrating financial need;
- Require no initial or down payment;
- Can be up to 24 months in length;
- No fees or interest in the calculation of the monthly payment amount;
- Facilitate the repayment of the past due balances in addition to the customer’s current monthly bill.
Importantly, any customer enrolled in a COVID-19 Payment Plan who is current with their payment terms cannot be disconnected even after the shut-off moratoriums have concluded.
We have heard of the following court access problems:
- Tenants infected with COVID-19 face the loss of their housing through the use of an execution.
- Attorneys and tenants are experiencing wait times of over half an hour when they call Superior Court Clerks’ Offices.
- Tenants participating in remote mediations are agreeing to stipulated judgments they do not understand because they cannot read the written agreement on their phones;
- Tenants who are unable to access the Teams platform used for remote hearings and mediations can only participate by audio;
- Tenants who are only able to participate by audio are not able to see what is happening and do not know what to do once they connect;
- Tenants who do not have access to a phone or computer are not given an in-person option, so they are unable to attend.
- Tenants do not know how to install the Teams app;
- Tenants do not have enough space on their phones to download the Teams app;
- Downloading the Teams app takes a very long time, and often the program closes before the full download occurs;
- Tenants are given only 5 days’ notice of a remote hearing;
- Tenants are not receiving mail in a timely manner, so they only receive notice of the hearing after they’ve already missed it;
- Hearing and mediation notices are not translated for people with limited English proficiency;
- Tenants receive notice of the remote hearing, but the notice does not include the date and time of the hearing;
- Tenants who receive notice of hearings and mediations do not understand that they must give the court their email address to receive access to the hearing;
- Tenants in receipt of a court event notice send in their email address as instructed but never receive an email with the link to link to join the meeting via video or phone;
- Hearing notice emails that include the phrase “do not delete” are deleted once the hearing is accepted;
- Judges are not asking court personnel if tenants were ever contacted by the Court regarding notice of the hearing;
- Judges are not determining if the landlord has received a CDC declaration;
- Mediators are not determining if the landlord has received a CDC declaration;
- Tenants who have given their landlord a CDC declaration are challenged by landlords who say the declaration is untruthful;
- When an attorney for the landlord did not show up, the Court called him and allowed him to join the remote hearing late. No calls are made to tenants when they do not appear on time;
- Some marshals refuse to let lawyers and tenants into courthouses to file documents;
- Some courts fail to provide a means for lawyers and the public to observe hearings.
- Public Official Outreach: Center staff continue to participate in Facebook Live, community Zoom meetings, and tele-townhalls with legislative officials. If you would like our assistance reaching your constituency, please contact our outreach coordinator firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Staff continue to hold fair housing trainings and COVID-19 eviction and foreclosure prevention resource workshops via Zoom with social service agencies, direct service providers, community groups, and invested stakeholders. If your agency would find a short resource webinar or fair housing training helpful during this crisis please contact Rashida Rattray, the Center’s Education and Outreach Coordinator, at email@example.com
Resources for tenants and homeowners:
- Click here for more information on the Connecticut and federal CDC moratoriums.
- Click here to understand current rights for homeowners in Spanish and English.
- Click here to understand how fair housing can protect you during the COVID-19 crisis. (Our guidance is now available in 11 languages.)
- Need to have your subsidized rent recalculated due to income loss? The Rent Recalculation Request tool can be accessed here in Spanish and English.
- To sign up for our weekly update fill out the form here.
More COVID-19 resources can be found on our website here.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR FAIR HOUSING RIGHTS IN ENGLISH, SPANISH, MANDARIN, VIETNAMESE, FARSI, RUSSIAN, ITALIAN, KREYOL, ARABIC, KHMER, AND TAGALOG, CLICK HERE.
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