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CT Fair Housing COVID-19 Update January 29, 2020

ADDRESSING CLIENTS’ NEEDS DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

January 29, 2021

“Home, for some people, is the last bulwark against the gnawing, snarling, wolf of poverty, the pain of hunger, and now, the risk of death by slow and wrenching suffocation from COVID-19. Some of our hardest working citizens find shelter with family. Some have to live in less-than-adequate rental units. And in the Great State of Georgia, some often seek out a manufactured home. Those who work for wages too often have little to show for it. At a minimum, the worker deserves a roof and some walls to keep out the January wind.

‘I mined in your mines and I gathered in your corn

I been working, mister, since the day I was born

Now I worry all the time like I never did before

‘Cause I ain’t got no home in this world anymore’

. . . This court finds that taking back a family’s trailer home on a contract is the same as evicting a tenant or foreclosing and taking possession of someone’s house. Everybody is just going to have to be patient and wait until the pandemic is over. This too shall pass. We must all accept the ephemerality of the human condition . . . Request for writ possession of the mobile home is denied.”

***From a January 21, 2021 decision by Judge Dennis Blackmon, Superior Court of Georgia, Carroll County. Quoted lyrics by Woody Guthrie.

The Center is working to ensure that all of Connecticut’s residents have access to the home of their choice. Please join us.

 Since the pandemic began on March 10, landlords have taken steps to move tenants out:

  • Landlords have filed 3,295new summary process (eviction) cases in court.
  • Courts have issued 889executions—Once a court issues an execution order, the landlord can hire a state marshal to remove the tenant and their belongings from the unit.

What’s happened since January 21, 2021:

Governor’s emergency powers extended to April 20, 2021: On January 26, the Governor extended his emergency powers to April 20, 2021. As outlined in his statement extending his powers, the Governor stated, “I will be required in the coming months to respond to a number of additional public health and civil preparedness risks that were not clear concerns or justifications for the March and September 2020 emergencies. Among many other things, I will need to address and administer a mass vaccination program as well as the potential threat posed by new and more infectious variants of the disease.” The extension of the Governor’s emergency powers has not yet extended the eviction moratorium now scheduled to expire on February 9, 2021.

Biden administration takes steps to restore civil rights enforcement tools:  On Tuesday, January 26, 2021, President Biden signed a memorandum directing the Department of Housing and Urban Development to take steps to promote equitable housing politics. His statement acknowledges that Federal, State, and local governments systematicall or texty implemented racially discriminatory housing policies that contributed to segregated neighborhoods and inhibited equal opportunity and the chance to build wealth for Black, Latino, Asian American and Pacific Islander, and Native American families, and other underserved communities. HUD will be determining whether the last administration’s repeal of several key civil rights protections in housing are contributing to segregation and unequal access to housing.

Democrats propose bill to repeal Connecticut’s “poverty tax” House Speaker Matt Ritter (D-Hartford) and House Appropriations Chair Toni Walker (D-New Haven) joined Rev. Isaac Lawson with the Center for Leadership and Justice to discuss legislation repealing the state’s inequitable “Poverty Tax.” If passed, the bill will end welfare liens imposed by the Department of Social Services when a resident receives state assistance. Connecticut has one of the strictest welfare lien laws in the country and is one of only two states to still require the liens. As explained by a former recipient of assistance and a foster mom, she hoped to sell her home and retire to Georgia. However, the State is refusing to let her sell her home until she pays off a 4- year-old lien for $37,000 imposed when she was raising her son as a single mother. This would consume much of the profit — and retirement security — she hoped to get by selling her house.

Connecticut residents can register for an appointment to get a COVID-19 vaccine: At present, Connecticut residents 75 and over qualify to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. Appointments can be made on-line or by call or texting 860-972-4993 (Hartford HealthCare) or 860-679-4400 (UConn Health) or (877) 918-2224 (the state vaccine system).

EVICTIONS

Lack of data obscures true nature of eviction crisis:  One-third of US counties have no annual eviction figures. Even as city and state governments race to distribute the new rental assistance money appropriated by Congress, they are discovering that data about evictions is so poor, that they do not know who is losing their homes and how to focus aid. The solution is to create a federal eviction database to help track and address housing insecurity. While Connecticut has eviction data for the state collected by the Judicial Branch, the format of the data makes it difficult to access.

Confidence in ability to pay rent or mortgage continues to fall: According to data collected by the Census Bureau in December 2020, the confidence of people in Connecticut who are Black or Latino to pay their rent or mortgage remains low. More than 21% of Latino homeowners have little or no confidence in their ability to pay next month’s mortgage compared to 15% of white renters. For people renting their homes, 43% of Latino renters and 45% of Black renters have little or no confidence in their ability to pay rent in January compared to only 25% of white renters. Finally, 100% of Latino renters and 55% of Black renters believe they are very likely or somewhat likely to face eviction in January or February 2021 while only 26% of white renters believe they will face eviction. Not one person of color who was surveyed believes they are not likely to face eviction at all.

New report reveals the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on women and girls in CT:  The Center provided data and analysis to Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund to be included in their report “Essential Equity: Women, COVID-19 and Rebuilding CT.”  

New CDC director extends federal eviction moratorium until at least March 31, 2021:  Shortly after President Biden was sworn in, the new director of the Centers for Disease Control announced an extension of the federal eviction moratorium to March 31, 2021. The CDC director will also begin a process to get input in needed improvements including whether to extend the moratorium until June 30, 2021 as proposed in President Biden’s COVID-19 relief package.

Tenants not covered by the Connecticut moratorium (discussed below) 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 and each adult in the household must meet specific requirements. To receive protection under the CDC moratorium, each adult in your household (18 or older) should:

  • Read the Declaration formand its eligibility requirements carefully;
  • Sign the Declaration form, if all the information is true about your situation;
  • Give the Declaration form to the landlord; and
  • Keep a copy of the signed Declaration.

There are also two online platforms—here and here—that can help you sign the Declaration form electronicall or texty and email it to your landlord. If you already have an eviction case in court, you should also give copies of the declarations to the court. A summary of both the CDC moratorium and the Connecticut moratorium is available in English and Spanish.

The Governor extended Connecticut’s eviction moratorium to February 9, 2021: Governor Lamont issued Executive Order 9T extending Connecticut’s eviction moratorium to February 9, 2021, the day the Governor’s emergency powers are set to expire. Landlords are only permitted to start an eviction action if a tenant:

  1. a) owes rent that was due on or before February 29, 2020;
  2. b) owes six or more months’ worth of rent that was due on or after March 1, 2020;
  3. c) created a serious nuisance; or
  4. d) has a lease that expired andthe landlord has a bona fide intention to use the unit as the landlord’s primary residence.

Responding to Eviction Papers: Tenants should not ignore eviction papers, filing deadlines, or notices about remote court events. Courts are entering Default Judgments against tenants who fail to file forms on time or attend remote court events. Once a Default Judgment is entered against a tenant, the landlord can ask the court for an execution. An execution gives the landlord permission to hire a marshal to remove the tenant. Learn more about the eviction court process.

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 or contact the clerk’s office. 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.

The public costs of COVID-19 related evictions could top $1.2 billion in Connecticut: The National Low Income Housing Coalition estimates that the public costs of eviction related homelessness could go as high as $1.2 billion or as low as $628 million. The public costs of eviction related homelessness include shelter costs, inpatient medical care, and hospital emergency department costs among others.

Researchers estimate 1,500 deaths and 17,000 infections were prevented by Connecticut’s eviction moratorium: The researchers who authored two recent studies that evaluated the effect  of the pandemic on tenants have applied their research to infection rates in states with eviction moratoria. The eviction moratorium in place between March and September in Connecticut which prohibited most landlords from doing anything to begin an eviction case is estimated to have saved 1,500 lives and prevented approximately 17,000 coronavirus infections.

Connecticut Right to Counsel: In late December, a petition was launched by Central CT DSA that call or texts on Connecticut legislators to pass Right to Counsel legislation guaranteeing the right to no-cost legal counsel to all residential tenants facing eviction proceedings. The petition has received more than 800 signatures and 35 organizational endorsements, including from Connecticut Legal Services, Connecticut Legal Rights Project, Connecticut Fair Housing Center, Connecticut Veterans Legal Center, Connecticut AFL-CIO, Make the Road CT, National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel, and New Haven Legal Assistance Association. Read, sign, and share the petition here.

Rental assistance for people without legal status: The State’s rental assistance program for people without legal status is still open. To access this assistance, tenants should contact Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants (CIRI) at 1-203-612-5464 or rentalassist@cirict.org. More program information is available here, and a Spanish-language webinar is available here.

211: Additional government assistance may be available through programs administered by local organizations and municipalities. Tenants may call or text 2-1-1 to confirm what rent and housing assistance is available in their area.

MORTGAGE FORECLOSURE

Black Americans suffered the most under Trump-era consumer protection agency:  A new study published by two Boston College researchers, reveals that financial-services companies began to reduce settlements to consumers assumed to be Black or low-income as soon as the last administration came into office. The unequal results suggest that the financial services industry assumed the last administration would not be as strict with the financial services industry as the Obama administration. Consumers were less likely to receive restitution.

HUD, USDA, VA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac extend foreclosure moratorium:  HUD has extended the foreclosure moratorium for FHA loans through March 31, 2021. The moratorium prohibits lenders from filing foreclosure actions or moving foreclosures forward that have already been filed. The USDA and the VA have taken similar steps to extend their moratoria through March 31, 2021 and February 28, 2021, respectively. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have extended their foreclosure moratoria through February 28, 2021. The moratoria do not apply to properties that are vacant or abandoned.

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. See our website for more information.

Homeowners have time to request a forbearance on FHA and USDA loans—Homeowners can still request forbearances if they are unable to pay the mortgage as the result of a loss of income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The ability to request a forbearance ends on March 31, 2021 for both types of loans.

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. On December 17, 2020, the Center sent the Judicial Branch a letter reporting that self-represented parties in some larger judicial districts were being provided with only a few days’ notice by regular mail – for instance, being mailed a letter on Friday of a Monday morning hearing. The Judicial Branch recently reported that self-represented parties should now be receiving two weeks’ notice of any remote hearing.

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.

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 last 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.

T-MAP program is shut down:  The T-MAP program is no longer accepting applications.

UTILITIES

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 or text 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 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.

Outreach:

 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 rrattray@ctfairhousing.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 rrattray@ctfairhousing.org

Resources for tenants and homeowners: 

More COVID-19 resources can be found on our website.

VISIT OUR WEBSITE FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR FAIR HOUSING RIGHTS IN ENGLISH, SPANISH, MANDARIN, VIETNAMESE, FARSI, RUSSIAN, ITALIAN, KREYOL, ARABIC, KHMER, AND TAGALOG.

Fionnuala Darby-Hudgens

(she, her, hers)

Director of Operations

Connecticut Fair Housing Center

Cell: (860) 886-3588

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