- 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?