Gov. Lamont’s budget for the $2.6 billion in federal fiscal recovery funds coming to the state includes $20 million for legal representation for tenants facing eviction, spread over two years. This money would help start the statewide right to counsel for tenants program proposed in H.B. 6531 that the Center and more than 40 community groups have supported. Op-eds published this week explain why Connecticut should adopt right to counsel as a public health intervention, following a letter from more than 125 healthcare providers and researchers urging federal funding for tenant representation, and why right to counsel is an LGBTQ issue. Support the Center’s work during this critical effort.
In today’s update:
Since March 15, 2021, when UniteCT began accepting applications:
- Landlords have filed 1,177 new summary process (eviction) cases;
- Courts have issued 419 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 in recovery from pandemic-related economic hardship: According to the latest data from the Household Pulse Survey, 26% of Latinx renters and 17% of Black renters have slight or no confidence in their ability to pay rent next month compared to 10% of white renters.
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.
The Department of Housing (DOH) has stated tenants who have housing subsidies should continue to apply and seek assistance through the appeal process.
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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org if your landlord refuses to participate in the program.
Tenants who have not received a confirmation email once their application is submitted should email: email@example.com or call 1-844-864-8328.
Landlords who have not received a confirmation email once their application is submitted should email: firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Problems encountered by UniteCT applicants:
UniteCT guidelines state that applicants are ineligible if the person applying is currently receiving other federal or state housing assistance such as a housing choice voucher or is living in public housing. In Connecticut, this means that tenants who were unable to pay their portion of the rent due to the COVID-19 economic shut down do not qualify. Treasury Department guidance states that tenants who are not receiving or do not anticipate receiving another source of public or private subsidy for the rental arrearage are eligible to receive emergency rental assistance.
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 public and subsidized housing are people of color. Making assistance available only through a subjective appeals process increases the likelihood of arbitrary and inconsistent decisions that may lead to fair housing violations.
Because many housing authorities and subsidized housing providers will not accept tenants previously evicted from subsidized housing, tenants evicted from subsidized units because of rental arrears will lose their housing and their subsidies and be disqualified from future housing subsidies.
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.
The attestation form on the UniteCT website cannot be used in place of paystubs or other proof of employment. This prevents people who are paid in cash from qualifying for UniteCT 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.
It has been reported to the Center that some large housing providers have stated that they will not participate in Unite CT and that certain landlord attorneys are advising their clients not to participate. DOH acknowledges that some landlords are refusing to participate because they believe their tenants have not made an effort to pay rent.
Tenants are in danger of losing their homes to eviction while they await a decision on their UniteCT applications.
The tenant cannot find out what information is missing from their application.
Outreach materials on the English-language UniteCT website are currently only available in English, Portuguese, Kreyol, and Polish. There are no outreach materials in Spanish.
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.
Tenants and their landlords are having trouble completing the online-only application because of lack of reliable internet access. 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 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.
The Pandemic has inflicted serious and lasting trauma on Connecticut’s most vulnerable populations – particularly working-class renters. Families of color are disproportionately represented among those most severely impacted and most in need of housing stability and assistance. The State must recognize the impact of this trauma by making the vital rental assistance through UniteCT as accessible as possible.
Unfortunately, complex program eligibility requirements, the voluminous required documentation, and technical challenges make it unlikely that UniteCT will successfully distribute its more than $200 million in federal rental assistance.
The Center recommends the following changes to UniteCT to ensure stability and safety for Connecticut’s families:
- The program encourages tenants to come to agreement on arrears not covered by UniteCT but also requires landlords to forgive a percentage of arrears; to make the program less confusing, remove the requirement that landlords forgive arrears and instead require those arrears to be treated as consumer debt;
- Allow tenants to use the attestation form to certify their income if they receive cash income or cannot get documentation from an employer;
- Remove the requirement that applicants upload a copy of any i.d. Treasury guidelines do not require that applicants have i.d. to apply and qualify.;
- Remove the requirement that the tenant have a written rental agreement or work with a landlord to create a rental agreement. Instead, 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;
- Permit tenants living in public and subsidized housing to apply and receive assistance for arrears;
- Automatically qualify tenants receiving TANF, General Assistance, SNAP and/or living in public or subsidized housing to apply without any additional documentation regarding income. All income information can be obtained by DOH from DSS or the public or subsidized housing provider;
- Prohibit evictions and executions for any tenant who has a pending or approved UniteCT application;
- Fix the technical problems raised above including providing reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities who cannot access the UniteCT website or application.
Eviction and foreclosure moratoriums extended:
Connecticut’s temporary ban on evictions will be in place through May 20, 2021. This means that your landlord cannot start a new eviction case against you until May 21, 2021, with some important exceptions. Review our fact sheet on the exceptions 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, but 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.
Fannie and Freddie extend time to apply for a forbearance to June 30, 2021: The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will continue to offer COVID-19 forbearance to qualifying multifamily property owners through June 30, 2021, subject to the continued tenant protections FHFA has imposed during the pandemic.
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
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.
The Center will continue to publish any recent news on foreclosure activity in Connecticut. For news and data previously published, please visit our website.
Help for homeowners
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.
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 email@example.com