ADDRESSING CLIENTS’ NEEDS DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
March 20, 2020
What happened on March 20, 2020:
- Foreclosures: The National Fair Housing Alliance summarized all of the assistance available for borrowers at the federal level. You can read the summary here.
- Court actions:
- The housing courts are technically open but not necessarily at their usual location and the housing clerks’ offices are closed. All civil business is being conducted at one location in each Judicial District. If you want to know which courthouse is open in your area, check here.
- If someone goes physically to a closed courthouse, there will be a sign saying where the open courthouse is located.
- Tenants who are the victim of self-help remedies by a landlord (for example, if a housing provider changes the locks on a tenant) will continue to have access to the courts.
- Summary Process (Eviction) actions:
- Summary process cases are NOT Priority 1 and are therefore will not be processed until after May 1. Papers that are filed will be received and held by the court until May 1.
- No hearings are being held. In addition, this means that summary process judgments (evictions) are not being entered. This applies whether a hearing is required for a judgment, so that neither judgments by default for failure to appear nor judgments for default for failure to plead are being entered.
- No executions are being issued. Marshals have been directed not to serve any previously issued executions. There is no requirement, however, that previously issued executions must be physically returned.
- Any court files that can be filed electronically will be accepted and held. This applies to summary process complaints themselves, to motions (including motions for default), to appearances, and to pleadings (e.g., answers and special defenses).
- It is assumed that anything from attorneys will be filed electronically. Other paperwork can be physically filed at the proper open courthouse or mailed to that courthouse. Mail sent to a closed courthouse will be forwarded by the Post Office to an open courthouse. All summary process complaints and pleadings will be held without further action until May 1, with the exception of the matters listed below.
- The primary exception to the no-action rule is for motions to halt a move out after a summary process action is complete. These motions are called auditas and these motions will be accepted, reviewed by a judge, and injunctions issued as appropriate. Marshals are not prohibited from serving such injunctions.
- An additional exception to the no-action rule is for entry and detainer actions, and certain serious municipal code enforcement proceedings. An entry and detainer action is one filed to prevent a landlord from entering a tenant’s home to move them out or otherwise interfere with their tenancy. These actions will be accepted, reviewed by a judge, and injunctions issued as appropriate. Marshals are not prohibited from serving such injunctions.
- Public housing and housing choice vouchers administered by the Housing Authority of the City of Meriden:
- Currently, the main office at 22 Church St, Meriden will remain open to the public. The office is open from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm to allow customers to drop off documents only. HACM will not be scheduling in person interviews until further notice.
- The Section 8 Department will remain fully operational. Staff will only be communicating via phone, email or mail.
- No in person meetings will be allowed at this time. Staff will be able to respond to questions and concerns via email or phone. As we anticipate an increase in phone calls and emails your patience will be greatly appreciated. Staff will respond as quickly as possible. Please call, email, or use our website whenever possible rather than visit our office in person.
- Annual recertification must be submitted by mail, email or Main office document drop off.
- All briefings and hearings will be canceled until further notice.
- Currently inspections will continue as scheduled. Landlords are expected to complete repairs that pose an immediate threat to the health and safety of the tenant/family.
- Tenants are to maintain a six ft distance from inspectors adhering to the social distancing guideline.
- HACM will grant reasonable time extensions for routine maintenance repairs if a verified case of COVID-19 is present in the household, or if the household is quarantined. Supporting documentation must be submitted to the HACM in order to receive the extension.
- Outreach: Staff held a webinar training for 18 front line service staff and policy advocates to explain what fair housing protections are available for victims of housing discrimination as a result of Covid-19. If you would like the Center to speak to your staff about the fair housing protections for the victims of housing discrimination as the result of Covid-19, click here.
- Outreach: Staff distributed daily housing update to over 300 advocates, and the entire Connecticut General Assembly. If you want this daily update delivered to your inbox, click here.
- Outreach: State of Connecticut added the Center’s daily updates onto the resources available for Homeowners and Renters found here.
- People who are homeless: Winter shelters and overflow shelters have closed while soup kitchens are struggling to keep up with the demand while keeping everyone safe. Read the article here.
What has NOT happened:
- A suspension of contractual and statutory landlord/tenant obligations. The moratorium is about the filing of eviction actions but not about rent payments.
- Judgments dismissing summary process cases are not being entered.
- No announcement from the Judicial Branch that self-help evictions are not allowed now that the courts are closed.
- No moratorium on the imposition of late fees or costs when a tenant is late paying the rent.
- No moratorium on the service of notices to quit.
- No moratorium on the service of summary process complaints.
- No moratorium on the imposition of late fees or costs when a homeowner is late making a mortgage payment.
- No moratorium on the cancellation of a trial payment plan when a homeowner is unable to pay due to a layoff or partial layoff.
- The federal stimulus package and state relief package do not appear to include funding for:
- 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;
- Additional lawyers to represent tenants in evictions and homeowners in foreclosure filed after the current moratoriums on filing new cases is 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 all of the homeowners who will be faced with foreclosure actions once the moratorium on filing new foreclosure cases is lifted;
- Nonprofits who have shifted their priorities to serve low-income people affected by the Covid-19 crisis but do not have funding to do so.
- Housing authorities have not issued guidance regarding staying notices of voucher terminations and whether reductions in income will be processed immediately or subjected to a 30-day period before the change is implemented.
- People continue to live in substandard conditions and cannot get assistance in moving out even though the conditions are harming them and their families.
- Many closing dates for people buying homes have been postponed or canceled because town clerk’s offices are closed or open only limited hours. Title insurers have made arrangements to provide “gap” coverage for these circumstances.
What we are learning from our clients
- Tenants have no heat and no response from landlords as to when heat will be restored.
- Tenants do not know what is happening regarding help for people who have lost their jobs and cannot pay rent as well as whether they can be evicted even though the courts are closed.
- Tenants are not being told where or how to pay rent when a landlord’s office has closed.
- Landlords continue to show apartments even though people are living in them without regard to the possibility of exposing all to Covid-19.
- Landlords continue to issue notices to quit.
- Elderly tenants continue to need changes to their units in order to get to appointments, but housing providers are not responding.
- Landlords have sent notices asking residents to inform management if they have been exposed to Covid-19.
- People who are homeless have been left to wander the streets because libraries, restaurants and recreation centers that have been a place of refuge are closed. Read the article from the Hartford Courant here.
- Tenants are being harassed by other tenants because of their race and national origin.
- Homeowners who negotiated a mortgage modification with a trial payment plan are again in danger of losing their homes because a layoff or reduction in hours has resulted in an inability to comply with the agreed upon payment plan.
- Landlords continue to issue Notices to Quit.
- People continue to lose jobs and income as bars, restaurants, hairdressers, etc. close.
- Contact your mortgage company about getting a forbearance on your mortgage if you have been laid off or lost income/hours. Click here to find out more and to find out if you have a Fannie Mae mortgage or here to find out more and to find out if you have a Freddie Mac mortgage.
- Call the housing authority administering your Section 8 and ask if they will postpone a voucher termination.
- If you experience a drop in income and you live in pubic or subsidized housing, report it immediately. Ask to have your rent reduced immediately so that you do not fall behind.
- Call the Center if you think you have been the victim of housing discrimination. Telephone: 860-247-4400; toll free: 888-246-4401; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR FAIR HOUSING RIGHTS IN ENGLISH, SPANISH, MANDARIN, FARSI, RUSSIAN, ITALIAN, KREYOL, ARABIC, AND VIETNAMESE, CLICK HERE.
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