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CT Fair Housing COVID-19 Update October 8, 2020 Inbox

ADDRESSING CLIENTS’ NEEDS DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

October 8, 2020

 

What happened since October 1, 2020:

 

Connecticut Eviction Moratorium Extended through December 31, 2020:  Governor Lamont issued Executive Order 9E extending the Connecticut eviction moratorium for some tenants.

 

  • What Executive Order 9E does:
  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 in both English and Spanish with any Notice to Quit permitted by EO 9E;
  3. Mandates that once a landlord or a landlord’s attorney receives a CDC declaration, the landlord must immediately cease all action to evict through December 31;
  4. Requires that any notice to quit or summary process complaint for a rent arrearage equal to or greater than six months’ worth of rent due on or after March 1, 2020 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) owes six or more months of rent that was due on or after March 1, 2020; c) has created a serious nuisance; or c) has a lease that expired and the landlord wants to use the unit as their primary residence;

2)    It does not stop the courts from holding court proceedings or issuing judgments in cases where the landlord has not received a CDC declaration and the case was either filed before the Connecticut moratorium began, or qualifies as an exception under the Connecticut moratorium, and

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

What should landlords do?

 

If a landlord or a landlord’s attorney receives a CDC declaration, EO 9E requires that they immediately cease all action to evict through December 31. If there is a court case pending, this means withdrawing any pending motions or applications, requesting a stay in proceedings, and asking the court to “mark off” any pending hearings. And to avoid any confusion, the landlord should also inform the court that they have received a CDC declaration. If there is no court case pending, this means not serving a notice to quit, or a summons and complaint.

 

What should tenants do?

 

Tenants may not be covered by the Connecticut moratorium for various reasons, including that (1) they owe rent that was due on or before February 29, 2020, (2) they owe six or more months of rent due on or after March 1, 2020, and (3) they have a lease that expired and the landlord wants to use the unit as their primary residence. If these tenants cannot pay their full rent or other housing payments because their household lost income or has very expensive out-of-pocket medical bills, they may still qualify for the CDC moratorium. However, the CDC moratorium’s protection is NOT automatic.

 

Tenants should begin by carefully 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. A summary of both the Connecticut and CDC moratoriums is available here.

 

If a tenant receives notice that their landlord has requested the issuance of an execution and a remote hearing has been scheduled, tenants must attend the remote hearing either by video or phone, even if they have already given their landlord a CDC declaration. 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.

 

Landlords have filed motions for default in 167 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 194 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 in a case involving nonpayment, the tenants are supposed to receive notice from court staff which provides instructions on how to participate in a remote hearing about the execution and applicability of the CDC moratorium either by video or phone. Executions in other types of cases are being signed without providing tenants with the opportunity for a hearing.

 

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

  • Tenants do not know how to install the “Teams” app used for remote hearings;
  • 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 takes a very long time, and often the program closes before the full download occurs;
  • Tenants who are unable to use the Teams app can only participate in the hearing by phone;
  • Tenants who are on the telephone are not able to see what is happening and do not know what to do once they connect;
  • Tenants who do not have access to a phone or computer are not given an in-person option, so they are unable to attend.
  • Tenants are given only 5 days’ notice of a hearing;
  • Some tenants are not receiving mail in a timely manner, so they only receive notice of the hearing after they’ve already missed it;
  • Tenants receive notice of the remote hearing, but the notice does not include the date and time of the hearing;
  • Hearing notices are not translated for people with LEP;
  • 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;
  • Tenants who receive notice of the hearing do not understand that they must give the court their email address to receive access to the hearing;
  • Hearing notice emails that include the phrase “do not delete” are deleted once the hearing is accepted;
  • 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;
  • Mediators 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;
  • Some marshals refuse to let lawyers and tenants into courthouses to file documents;
  • Some courts fail to provide a means for lawyers and the public to observe hearings;

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

 

Motel-dwellers are not considered homeless enough: When families face removal from their homes due to eviction, they are forced to separate or wait for long periods of time to get into a homeless shelter. As an alternative some families are moving to motels which they pay for themselves but then they are not considered homeless and do not receive homeless services.  No one knows how many families call motels home.

 

Moms, Black Americans and educators are in trouble as economic recovery slows: The last jobs report before the November 3 election shows that the economy continues to slow. Working mothers and Black American are falling behind and the new numbers show these groups lost even more ground in September. Congress has not passed a second stimulus package yet.

Comparison of eviction moratorium and homeless prevention across the country: The National Low Income Housing Coalition continues to publish information about eviction moratoria and homeless prevention efforts for every state in the country. The Coalition estimates that at least 130,000 Connecticut families face eviction between now and December 31. The TRHAP program has enough funds to assist approximately 10,000 households.

Utility moratorium will end on October 31:  Any residential customer having trouble paying their utility bills should contact their utility company and ask whether they are eligible to be “coded hardship.” If the customer is coded hardship, the utility company will not be able to shut off their utilities during the winter months. 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.

 

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 Connecticut and CDC moratoriums.
  • 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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Find us on the Internet @ctfairhousing