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Update from the Connecticut Fair Housing Center

In celebration of Fair Housing Month, the Center’s education and outreach coordinator, Rashida Rattray, brought to life a presentation to honor the contributions of women of color in the fair housing and civil rights movements. Too often these stories are not told in our history books. Ms. Rattray explains “my pride in being a Black woman is the center of who I am, and I am always trying to highlight that in my work. I want women of color to be able to embrace their Blackness that is too often tokenized and rarely praised. The motivation for me to lift up these stories, and gather women of color, is because in my own upbringing we never see this type of work.” The Center’s Unsung Heroines webpage also explores the lives of women of color who made a difference in the past, highlights the contributions of women of color today, and we hope empowers the women color who will shape our future.

 

The Center has partnered with Target Circle. Please follow our social media to learn how you can help support the Center with your Target shopping for the next ninety days!

 

In today’s update:

 

Apply_for_UniteCT

Assistance_with_funeral_expenses

Connecticut_mortgage_delinquencies

Eviction_moratoriums

Eviction_statistics

File_CDC_complaints_with_CFPB

Get_the_vaccine

Help_for_homeowners

Outreach

Right_to_Counsel_update

UniteCT_updates

 

 

Since March 15, 2021, when UniteCT began accepting applications:

  • Landlords have filed 862 new summary process (eviction) cases;
  • Courts have issued 308 executions—once a court issues an execution order, the landlord can hire a state marshal to remove the tenant and their belongings from the unit.

 

UniteCT updates:

  • As of April 12, 2021, the UniteCT guidelines state applications will be deemed ineligible if the person applying is currently receiving other federal or state housing assistance such as a housing choice voucher or is living in public housing. Despite this, Department of Housing (DOH) is urging tenants who have housing vouchers or who live in public housing to apply. The tenants will be denied but will be eligible to appeal that denial. The instructions on how to appeal a denial are coming soon. DOH will then decide as to whether the tenant needs the assistance. At present there are no published guidelines on how DOH will determine “need.”
  • Denying rental assistance to people with housing subsidies or tenants in public housing has a disparate impact on people of color. In Connecticut, 71% of people in public and subsidized housing are people of color. Without published rules regarding how DOH will determine whether these tenants are truly in need, it is possible that arbitrary decisions will be made regarding eligibility.
  • Tenants evicted from subsidized units because of rental arrears will lose their housing and their subsidies. Many housing authorities and subsidized housing providers will not rent to tenants with an eviction record. As a result, eviction for nonpayment of rent will disqualify many tenants from subsidized housing in the future.
  • The DOH has announced that it will publish data on UniteCT’s program efficacy and equity on Fridays. DOH recommends reading the FAQs on the program page for answers to any questions about the UniteCT program.
  • Tenants should receive a confirmation email once an application is submitted. If the tenant does not receive the confirmation, they should email: doh-unitect@ct.gov to ensure the application was submitted.
  • Once a tenant applies, their landlord should receive an email from UniteCT stating that an application has been submitted and asking the landlord for information. If the landlord still has not received this email, email doh-unitect@ct.gov or call 1-844-864-8328 to determine why the landlord has not received additional information.
  • All tenants must have a written rental agreement to be eligible. If there is no written rental agreement, the landlord and the tenant must sit down together and write one. The rental agreement must have a holdover clause in it meaning that it has to say that the tenant has the right to stay after the agreement expires. If a tenant is unable to get the landlord to write a rental agreement, email doh-unitect@ct.gov.
  • The UniteCT application includes an “attestation” form for use if the tenant does NOT have documentation of their income, their unemployment date, if current income is zero, the amount of rent past due, or the amount of utilities owed. However, DOH has stated the attestation form cannot be used in place of paystubs or other proof of employment.
  • The tenant can find out if information is missing from their application by checking their application in UniteCT or by emailing doh-unitect@ct.gov. DOH hopes to be able to contact tenants with missing pieces of their application after they have hired additional staff.
  • DOH is currently working on applications where the tenant has been unemployed for 90 days or more and with people who are at 50% of area median income. Once those applications have been fully processed, DOH will move on to the next group of applications.
  • 48 applications for UniteCT have been approved since March 15, 2021.
  • DOH has stated that it will meet with landlords to convince them to accept UniteCT rental payments even if the landlord states they will not participate in the program. Email DOH at doh-unitect@ct.gov if your landlord refuses to participate in the program.
  • Even though there are community agencies assisting with applications, tenants and their landlords are having trouble completing the online-only application because many do not have reliable access to the internet. The UniteCT tech bus will be making stops at various locations throughout out Connecticut in April. The schedule is listed at the bottom of the UniteCT website.
  • The online application portal is not fully accessible for tools used by individuals with hearing and vision impairments.
  • The online application’s “Help Portal” does not translate the instructions into any language other than English.
  • Outreach materials are available in English, Spanish and Portuguese.

 

How to Apply for UniteCT: UniteCT’s emergency rental and utilities assistance is available for individuals with a household income at or below 80% of AMI who have experienced a financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Applications must be made on-line. A list of the documents which must be included with an application can be found here.  Visit https://portal.ct.gov/DOH/DOH/Programs/UniteCT to apply or call 1-844-864-8328 to get a referral to a community agency who may be able to assist tenants and landlords in applying.

 

Ask Gov. Lamont to Use Federal Funds for a Right to Counsel for Tenants: Connecticut has a historic opportunity to use federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act to launch a right to counsel program for tenants facing eviction. Evictions cause homelessness and negatively impact health, education, employment, and future housing stability. Providing legal representation to tenants has been shown to reduce evictions and forced moves and save the state money in shelter costs, emergency services, child welfare, and education

  • Health care providers, health researchers, and other medical professional are sending a letter to Governor Lamont asking him to use federal funding for legal representation for tenants to address the public health impacts of the eviction crisis. Health care professionals can sign on to the letter by Monday, April 19 at 5 pm.
  • Use this script to contact Governor Lamont and the legislature.

 

Racial and ethnic disparities continue in recovery from pandemic-related economic hardship: According to the latest data from the Household Pulse Survey, 26% of Latinx renters and 17% of Black renters have slight or no confidence in their ability to pay rent next month compared to 10% of white renters.

 

The Consumer Financial Protections Bureau (CFPB) is investigating complaints from tenants whose landlords file unlawful evictions that violate the moratorium. In a fact sheet released by the White House the administration explains that CFPB will monitor and investigate eviction practices to ensure that companies are complying with the law. Tenants can submit complaints to the CFPB, and learn more about their rights under the current ban on evictions.

 

The Federal Trade Commission issued a statement explaining that landlords have an obligation to let tenants know about the CDC moratorium before trying to evict them. “Evicting tenants in violation of the CDC, state, or local moratoria, or evicting or threatening to evict them without apprising them of their legal rights under such moratoria, may violate prohibitions against deceptive and unfair practices.”

 

Assistance with funeral expenses:  FEMA launched their funeral assistance program on Monday April 12th. This program will provide a benefit to qualified applicants who paid for funeral expenses for an individual whose death was likely the result of COVID-19.

 

IRS extension to file taxes:  The IRS announced that it was extending the date to file taxes to May 17, 2021.

 

Connecticut residents can register for an appointment to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Anyone over the age of 16 is now eligible for a vaccine.  Appointments can be made online or by calling 860-972-4993 (Hartford HealthCare), 860-679-4400 (UConn Health), or (877) 918-2224 (the state vaccine system). Deaf and hard of hearing can access the Vaccine Appointment Assist Line through the Connecticut Relay Service by dialing 7-1-1. The Assist Line is open seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

 

EVICTIONS

 

 

The Connecticut eviction moratorium has four exceptions and is scheduled to expire on April 20: Until April 20, 2021, a landlord may only serve a Notice to Quit or start an eviction case in court if the tenant:

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

the landlord’s primary residence.

 

The federal CDC eviction moratorium is scheduled to end on June 30, 2021: Tenants not covered by the Connecticut eviction moratorium may still qualify for protection under the federal CDC moratorium if they cannot pay their full rent 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. To receive protection under the CDC moratorium, each adult in your household (18 or older) should:

  • Read the Declaration form and 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.

You can also use a CDC Declaration generator available in English and Spanish to (1) sign the Declaration form electronically, and (2) either email it to yourself and to your landlord or download and print it out. If you already have an eviction case in court, you should also give copies of the declarations to the court. Visit our website for English and Spanish fact sheets on both the Connecticut and CDC eviction moratoriums.

 

Paying Rent: Tenants are still required to pay rent. If you cannot pay your full rent, you should still pay as much of the rent as possible on time and keep any records of your payments. To be protected by the Connecticut moratorium’s ban on nonpayment evictions, you must keep the total amount of rent you owe below 6 months of rent. This moratorium is also scheduled to expire on April 20, 2021.

 

Applying a Portion of Your Security Deposit to Rent: Under Executive Order 10A, if you paid a security deposit that is more than one month’s rent, you can apply the portion that is more than one month’s rent toward rent that was due from April 1, 2020 through April 19, 2021. You must make this request to your landlord in writing and should keep a copy of your request.

 

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.

 

 

Homelessness Prevention Program: The Homelessness Prevention Program (HPP) run by the Coordinated Access Network throughout Connecticut is providing assistance to tenants at risk of becoming homeless. The program provides payment of some rental arrearages to people who have received a Notice to Quit from their landlord, have been unable to pay rent on or after March 1, 2020, and have income at or below 50% of the 2020 Area Median Income. To apply, tenants should call 2-1-1 and ask about the Homelessness Prevention Program.

 

 

MORTGAGE FORECLOSURE

 

Connecticut homeowners seriously delinquent on their mortgages:  According to CoreLogic, Connecticut has the 9th highest delinquency rate in the country with serious delinquencies at 4.8% (as of January ’21). This means that more than 1 in 21 homeowners are 90 days or more on their mortgage, and the numbers are much worse for homeowners with FHA mortgages.

 

Fannie and Freddie extend time to apply for a forbearance to June 30, 2021:  The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will continue to offer COVID-19 forbearance to qualifying multifamily property owners through June 30, 2021, subject to the continued tenant protections FHFA has imposed during the pandemic. The programs were set to expire March 31, 2021. This extends the eviction protections in place for tenants in 5+ unit properties where the landlord has obtained a mortgage forbearance from Fannie/Freddie.

 

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.

 

Mediations have resumed in foreclosure cases: On February 25, 2021, the Judicial Branch announced that it will resume scheduling mediations beginning on March 1, 2021. Premediation and mediation will take place involving mortgage foreclosures that do not involve federally backed mortgages. At this time, all premediations and mediations will be held virtually, not in person.

 

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 to receive individualized legal information and advice. These Sessions are in addition to the considerable number of videos and materials available at www.ctfairhousing.org.

 

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.

 

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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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