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CT Fair Housing COVID-19 Update October 2, 2020

ADDRESSING CLIENTS’ NEEDS DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

October 2, 2020

 

What happened since September 24, 2020:

 

Connecticut Eviction Moratorium Extended through December 31, 2020:  Governor Lamont issued Executive Order 9E extending the Connecticut eviction moratorium for some tenants. However, landlords may serve Notices to Quit and Summary Process complaints for serious nuisance, a bona fide desire by the landlord to use the unit as their primary residence, and “serious nonpayment of rent,” which is defined as a rent arrearage equal to or greater than six months’ worth of rent due on or after March 1, 2020.

 

  • What Executive Order 9E does: The Connecticut moratorium:
  1. Prohibits the service of a Notice to Quit or a Summary Process complaint through December 31 for some tenants;
  2. Requires landlords to serve a CDC Declaration with the Notice to Quit in both English and Spanish;
  3. Mandates that once a landlord receives a CDC declaration, they must immediately cease all action to evict through December 31;
  4. Requires that any notice to quit or summary process complaint for “serious nonpayment of rent” must state the amount of the rent arrearage, the months for which rent was unpaid, and the amount unpaid for each of those months.

 

  • What Executive Order 9E does NOT do:

1)    It does not prohibit the service of a notice to quit or summary process complaint if the tenant a) owes rent that was due on or before February 29, 2020; b) has created a serious nuisance; c) has a lease that expired and the landlord wants to occupy the unit; d) has a rent arrearage equal to or greater that six months’ worth of rent due on or after March 1, 2020 (this is a “serious nonpayment of rent” under EO 9E);

2)    It does not stop the courts from processing and issuing judgments in cases that were filed before the Connecticut moratorium began, or in cases that are not prohibited by either the Connecticut or CDC moratoriums.

3)    It does not stop the courts from issuing executions in cases where the landlord has not received a CDC declaration.

What should tenants do?

 

Tenants may not be covered by the Connecticut moratorium because they owe rent that was due on or before February 29, 2020, or because they owe six or more months of rent due on or after March 1, 2020. These tenants may still qualify for the CDC moratorium, but this protection is NOT automatic.

 

Tenants should begin by reading the requirements a tenant must meet to qualify for the CDC moratorium. If every person over 18 in the household meets the qualifications, then each of those people should fill out a CDC declaration and give each declaration to the LANDLORD. Information about the declaration and how to create one are also available in Spanish. In addition, there are on-line forms that can be found here and here that can generate the CDC declaration.

 

Landlords have filed motions for default in 157 cases since September 14: In addition, motions for default were pending in more than 2,000 cases. “Pending” means no action has been taken on the motion.

 

Landlords have requested more than 175 executions since September 1: The executions requested beginning on September 1 are in addition to the 725 requests filed since March 1 which are still awaiting hearing. If an execution has been requested by a landlord, the tenant is supposed to receive notice from court staff which provides instructions on how to participate in a remote hearing about the execution either by video or phone.

 

We have heard the following problems with remote hearings and court access: 

  • Tenants do not know how to install the “Teams” app which is used for remote hearings;
  • Tenants do not know how to use the Teams app and can only participate in the hearing by phone;
  • Tenants do not have enough space on their phones to download the Teams app;
  • Tenants could not connect with the court through the Teams app;
  • Downloading the Teams app take a long time on a phone and often the program closes before the full download occurs;
  • Tenants who are on the telephone are not able to see what is happening and do not know what to do once they connect;
  • Hearing notice emails that include the phrase “do not delete” are deleted once the hearing is accepted;
  • Sometimes marshals refuse to let lawyers and tenants into courthouses;
  • Sometimes courts fail to provide a means for lawyers and the public to observe hearings;
  • Some tenants are not receiving mail in a timely manner, so are missing their hearings;
  • Hearing notices are not translated for people with LEP;
  • Tenants given only 5 days’ notice of a hearing;
  • Tenants receive notice of the remote hearing, but the notice does not include the date and time of the hearing;
  • Hearing notices tell tenants to call the clerk’s office to receive information about how to participate in a remote hearing, but when tenants call the clerk’s office they hear a recording directing them to call another phone number that is not always answered;
  • Judges are not asking court personnel if tenants were ever contacted by the Court regarding notice of the hearing;
  • Judges are not determining if the landlord has received a CDC declaration;
  • Tenants who have given their landlord a CDC declaration are challenged by landlords who say the declaration is not true;
  • When an attorney for the landlord did not show up, the Court called him and allowed him to join the remote hearing late. No calls made to tenants when they do not appear;
  • Tenants unable to participate in remote hearings because they do not have a phone or computer.

 

What should tenants do?

 

If a tenant receives notice that their landlord has requested the issuance of an execution or a default judgment, the tenant should begin by reading the CDC declaration requirements a tenant must meet to qualify for the CDC moratorium. If every person over 18 in the household meets the qualifications, then every person over 18 in the household should fill out a declaration and give it to the LANDLORD and the court. Information about the declaration and how to create one are also available in Spanish. In addition, there are on-line forms that can be found here and here that can generate the CDC declaration. If the tenant gives their landlord a copy of the declaration, this will stop the landlord from using an execution to move the tenant out.

 

However, tenants must also attend the remote hearing either by video or phone. The notice to the tenant about the request for the execution should also include an email address where the tenant can get answers to questions regarding remote hearings.

 

If a tenant has not filed an Appearance or Answer in their eviction case, the tenant should do so immediately. Courts have lifted the suspension on deadlines to file these papers and have begun entering Default Judgments. Learn more about the eviction court process here.

TRHAP program changes: Governor Lamont announced an additional $20 million would be added to the TRHAP program bringing the total amount for TRHAP to $40 million. DOH states that the program will reopen for new applications in mid-October. In addition, CHFA has assigned 30 staff members to help process the nearly 7,000 pre-applications already received. This brings the total number of staff working on this project to 45. In addition, DOH has reduced the paperwork required for tenants to complete an application. When the program reopens in mid-October, tenants will be able to apply on-line and upload the verifications they need. The goal is to have the tenant go from pre-application to full application within 5 business days. Tenants without internet access will still be able to contact the call center and 211 to put in an application. The on-line application portal will be in English and Spanish.

 

 

Mortgage Foreclosure

 

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 states 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.

 

Judicial Branch is scheduling 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 is 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.

 

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. The program began on August 7, with 8 slots weekly and will expand if there’s enough demand from homeowners and capacity for us. Homeowners can sign up, answer a few short questions, and be set up with an appointment. These Sessions are in addition to the considerable amount of videos and materials available at www.ctfairhousing.org

Apply for T-MAP on-line:  The number of successful applications for the State’s TMAP program remains low and to date, with only 23 being found eligible. TMAP now has an on-line application in English. It has not yet been translated into Spanish. To apply for assistance by telephone, call 1-860-785-3111. For more information about the program, click here

 

Utility moratorium will end on Thursday, October 1 and October 31:  The Shut-off Moratorium for non-hardship customers ended on September 30, 2020.  Any customer experiencing difficulty paying their utility bills to contact their utility company and ask whether the customer is eligible to be “coded hardship.” Special financial assistance programs are available to hardship customers. For more information, see this Operation Fuel website. Second, if a customer is ineligible for hardship status, they should ask to be placed on a COVID-19 Payment Plan. Enrollment for the COVID-19 Payment Program for residential customers is open until November 1, 2020.

 

Civil rights group challenges zoning ordinance: The Open Communities Alliance (OCA) has filed a request for approval to build multifamily affordable housing in Woodbridge, a town that requires 1.5 acres per single family home. OCA is challenging the legality of Woodbridge’s zoning ordinances under the fair housing laws by filing the request. Woodbridge has not yet taken any action on the request.

 

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 shussain@ctfairhousing.org.

 

  • Staff continue to hold fair housing trainings and COVID-19 housing resource workshops via Zoom with social service agencies, direct service providers, and invested stakeholders. If your agency would find a short resource webinar or fair housing training helpful during this crisis please contact Shaznene Hussain, the Center’s Education and Outreach Coordinator, at Shussain@ctfairhousing.org.

 

Resources for tenants and homeowners:

  • Click here for more information on the CDC moratorium.
  • Click here to understand current rights for homeowners in Spanish and English.
  • Click here to understand how fair housing can protect you during the COVID-19 crisis. (Our guidance is now available in 11 languages.)
  • Need to have your subsidized rent recalculated due to income loss? The Rent Recalculation Request tool can be accessed here in Spanish and English.
  • To sign up for our weekly update fill out the form here.

 

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

 

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

 

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Fionnuala Darby-Hudgens

(she, her, hers)

Director of Operations

Connecticut Fair Housing Center

Cell: (860) 886-3588

 

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