Eviction moratorium expires Saturday, resources in place for CT tenants and landlords

New Haven

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH/AP) — All through the pandemic, a federal eviction moratorium prevented landlords and banks from kicking people out of their homes. The U.S. Supreme Court ordered that moratorium to end on July 31. 

The moratorium was put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to slow the spread of the virus. It helped millions of people, who needed support, during the pandemic. News 8 also heard from landlords, who said they too have bills to pay and this moratorium was difficult for them as well.

“The last year, it’s been a pretty tough time to be a landlord and a tenant,” said David Haberfeld, of Landlord Solutions, LLC. “There haven’t been winners at all.”

Connecticut has systems in place, however, designed so that no one should lose their home because they can’t pay due to the pandemic. UniteCT provides up to $15,000 rental and up to $1,5000 electricity payment assistance to those impacted.

“We know, as the pandemic continues, especially the pandemic of the unvaccinated that it is safer for everyone if people are able to stay in their homes,” said Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz. 

In New Haven, there is also a city program called CASTLE that can give landlords even more money in exchange for not evicting overdue tenants. Critics said the process to get the money is too complicated. But, UniteCT has 16 centers with people who are there to help landlords with the details.

“They need the complete lease, the detailed rent statement, they need proof of their ownership of the property, and they need their W-9 for tax purposes,” explained Dawn Parker of UniteCT. “Really, for $15,000 worth of federal money, that’s a very light lift, right?” UniteCT has already given away $15 million just in the city of New Haven alone, keeping almost 900 households from losing their houses. They want to give that money away. If you want more information, go to their website.

Here’s the situation in Connecticut:

WHAT’S THE STATUS OF EVICTION MORATORIUMS IN THE STATE?

Connecticut was one of several states that enacted its own eviction moratorium in 2020. The state’s rule, which prevented landlords from filing most new eviction cases, with certain exceptions, expired on June 30.

Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont, however, signed an executive order on the same day that requires landlords to apply to the state’s UniteCT rental assistance program prior to issuing an eviction notice to tenants for nonpayment of rent.

Among other things, Lamont’s order also requires a stay in eviction proceedings of up to 30 days if either the landlord or the tenant applies to the UniteCT program for relief.

WHAT’S BEING DONE TO HELP PEOPLE FACING EVICTION?

Using roughly $400 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds, the state developed the UniteCT Program to provide both rental and utility payment assistance to qualified households impacted by the pandemic. As of July 28, nearly $41 million has been disbursed to 5,486 tenants and 2,604 landlords. Additionally, more than $2.2 million has been disbursed for unpaid utility bills.

U.S. Census data released July 22 estimates more than 70,000 renters have no confidence they will be able to pay next month’s rent. “So we are serving a lot of the people who need service, but not enough. Certainly not enough,” said Erin Kemple, executive director of the Connecticut Fair Housing Center.

According to survey data released July 5, it was “very likely” that an estimated 1,712 renters would leave their homes in the next two months due to eviction while 25,005 were “somewhat likely.” Kemple said those numbers don’t provide an accurate picture of the situation because some respondents may not have known that Connecticut’s eviction moratorium ended on June 30 and the federal one is set to expire on Saturday.

HOW ARE THE COURTS HANDLING EVICTION HEARINGS?

Eviction hearings are still being held remotely because of pandemic restrictions, but are expected to eventually resume in-person as state court operations continue to open back up. Meanwhile, the state is using federal COVID-19 relief funds to provide low-income tenants with no-cost legal representation for eviction proceedings or administrative proceedings.

As of Thursday, there were 1,843 cases pending.

While a large number of eviction cases were filed right after Lamont’s executive order was issued, Kemple said the numbers have dropped in the last week or so. She equates the decline to court clerks looking closely at eviction case files. If they don’t see an application for the UniteCT relief funds filed as part of an eviction action, then the case cannot be filed.

HOW AFFORDABLE IS HOUSING IN THE STATE’S RENTAL MARKETS?

The “rent burden” in Connecticut — the percentage of households that spend 30% or more of their income on rent — is near or exceeds 50% in most counties, according to AffordCT, a housing database. In June, the overall median rent in the Hartford metro area was $1,545 a month, and the median two-bedroom cost $1,750 a month, according to  data from Realtor.com.

ARE EVICTIONS EXPECTED TO CREATE A SURGE IN HOMELESSNESS?

Kemple said she expects to see an increase in the number of people seeking access to homeless shelters once Lamont’s executive order requiring landlords to apply to UniteCT expires on Sept. 30. That’s also when an order expires that permits state officials to provide “non-congregate” housing, such as hotel rooms instead of shelters, for people experiencing homelessness in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Kemple said her group is now worried about families doubling up with relatives or friends.

“Recent studies have shown that the communities with highest eviction rates also have the lowest vaccination rates,” she said. “We expect to see a spike in infections as a result.”

Her group has asked the Lamont administration to make the application process for the rental assistance program easier and to allow renters to receive the funds directly, instead of going to the landlords since some landlords don’t want to participate in UniteCT.

Aaron Turner, a spokesman for the Connecticut Department of Housing, recently said the state is “making every effort, through a wide variety of programs and initiatives” to prevent a surge in homelessness.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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