Housing Law Frequently Asked Questions For Tenants. Elizabeth Pisarski-Buchholz Staff Attorney Statewide Legal Services of CT, Inc.

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1 Housing Law Frequently Asked Questions For Tenants Elizabeth Pisarski-Buchholz Staff Attorney Statewide Legal Services of CT, Inc.

2 How can a tenant find affordable housing? Call Infoline. Apply for subsidized housing with the Housing Authority in their desired towns. Remind them that a landlord cannot refuse to rent to them based on family status (i.e. children), gender, disability, race, source of income (i.e. SSI), or rental assistance (i.e. Section 8).

3 What should tenants know about moving into an apartment? Tenant should: Get landlord s name and contact info. Inspect the apartment before moving in. Make a list of needed repairs (if any) for the landlord. Important: Once a tenant has the keys to the apartment, he is considered to be in possession of the apartment and owes rent whether he moves in or not.

4 What should tenants know about moving into an apartment? The landlord may ask for a security deposit. Security deposit amount: Cannot exceed two months rent. CGS 47a-21(b)(1). If tenant is 62 years old or older, security deposit cannot exceed one month s rent. CGS 47a-21(b)(2).

5 What should tenants know about moving into an apartment? Two types of leases: Written and oral. Written Lease: Can have a term of any length of time. Covers how, when, and where to pay rent; fees; who can occupy; pets; utilities, repairs, etc. Advantages: Rent amount and terms of the agreement cannot be changed during the lease term without written agreement. As long as the tenant complies with the lease, the landlord cannot evict. Disadvantages: Tenant is responsible for rent for the full lease term unless written agreement otherwise. If there is no written agreement releasing the tenant from the lease, the tenant may be responsible for the balance of the rent remaining under the lease.

6 What should tenants know about moving into an apartment? Oral lease: The person has all rights and responsibilities of a tenant. Lease is monthly or weekly, depending on how the tenant pays rent. At the end of that period of time, the lease expires and renews itself. Advantages: Tenant can move out at any time, but will owe rent through the end of the current month or week. Tenant obligations are only those last agreed to and those covered by Connecticut law. Disadvantages: The terms of the lease (i.e., rent amount, utility charges, rules) can change at the end of every lease term (month or week).

7 What can the tenant expect after moving in? Rent: Rent is due according to the lease. If it is not in the lease, rent is due by the 1st of the month. If rent is paid monthly, CT law gives a 9-day grace period to pay rent (so rent is not due until the 10 th of the month, or 9 days after it is due in the lease). CGS 47a-15a. If rent is paid weekly, CT law gives a 4 day grace period to pay rent. CGS 47a-15a. If rent is paid in full and on time, the landlord cannot impose a late fee or start an eviction for nonpayment. Pay the landlord with a money order or check and write rent in full for month on it. Get a receipt from the landlord, especially if paying in cash. Tenant should save all money order or landlord receipts.

8 What can the tenant expect after Rent Increases moving in? Written lease: Landlord cannot change the rent during the term of the lease. Oral lease: Landlord can change the rent at the beginning of the new lease term (month or week).

9 What can the tenant expect after moving in? Rent Increases If tenant does not agree with the rent increase, cannot afford the new rent, or thinks it is more than fair market value, tenant can: See if the town has a Fair Rent Commission. Keep paying the original rent amount (get receipts). The landlord can start an eviction if tenant is not paying the new rent amount. Housing court judge will decide on a fair rent for the apartment.

10 What can the tenant expect after moving in? Rent Increases Other protections from a rent increase: If tenant is over age of 62 or disabled and the building has 5 or more units, the landlord cannot increase the rent unless it is fair and equitable. If in the past 6 months tenant has asked the landlord to make repairs, filed a report with the health code inspector, started a PICA, or joined a tenant s union, the landlord generally cannot raise the rent.

11 What can the tenant expect after moving in? Landlord Responsibilities CGS 47a-7 Comply with the health and building codes. Make repairs necessary to stay in compliance. Maintain the common areas and the electrical, plumbing, heat and other appliances. Supply running water and the means to obtain reasonable amounts of heat. Supply receptacles for trash and arrange for its removal. Make sure the tenant has an individual meter for electrical and heating service (otherwise landlord must keep that in his name). Pay for electrical in the common areas. Notify tenants of the presence of lead paint.

12 What can the tenant expect after moving in? Landlord Responsibilities If the landlord does not make repairs and maintain the building, tenant can call the town s health code inspector. The inspector will do an inspection and send a report to the landlord. If landlord does not make repairs, tenant can file a Payment Into Court Action (PICA) and pay the rent to the court instead of to the landlord. CGS 47a-14h IMPORTANT: Tenant must keep paying rent, even if the landlord is not making repairs. Landlord can evict for nonpayment unless there is a PICA. A PICA cannot be started if tenant has already received a Notice to Quit. CGS 47a-14h(a)

13 What can the tenant expect after moving in? Landlord Responsibilities If landlord doesn t maintain heat at or above 65 degrees and supply water and hot water, tenant should call the health code inspector and the police. CGS 47a-7 and CGS 47a-13. If Tenant s apartment does not have a separate utility meter, or if tenant thinks he is paying for another tenant s utilities or the common areas, call utility company for inspection. If the apartment or building is not properly metered, landlord must make repairs. If the problem is not fixed, the utility bill will go in the landlord s name until he makes the repair. Tenant can sue the landlord for overcharge.

14 What can the tenant expect after moving in? Tenant Responsibilities CGS 47a-11 Pay the rent in full and on time. Comply with the building, health and fire codes. Keep the premises safe and clean. Remove garbage and rubbish from apartment. Keep fixtures clean. Use appliances, electrical, and plumbing in a reasonable manner. Do not willfully destroy or deface the landlord s property or allow others to do so. Do not disturb neighbors peaceful enjoyment of the property. Do not engage in behavior considered a nuisance or serious nuisance (drug sales or usage, threatening to hurt other tenants or the landlord, willfully destroying property). Obey the landlord s rules as long as they are reasonable, clear, and fairly applied. If tenant does not comply, he can be evicted, sued by the landlord, lose the security deposit, and possibly be fined or even prosecuted on criminal charges.

15 What can the tenant expect after moving in? Landlord Entry Into the Apartment CGS 47a-16. The landlord is only allowed to enter the apartment without tenant s permission if there is an emergency (i.e. gas leak, fire, etc.). If there is no emergency, the landlord must give reasonable notice and get permission to enter. IMPORTANT: The law does not define reasonable notice. It can be whatever is reasonable in the current situation. If the landlord enters without tenant s permission, tenant should call the police. Every time that a landlord enters without permission and it has been documented, tenant can sue the landlord for one month s rent. CGS 47a-18a.

16 What happens if the landlord is going through foreclosure? CGS 47a-20e and CGS 47a-20f. Tenant needs to pay rent or the landlord can evict. The landlord still owns the property until the title is passed to someone else. If the landlord loses the property to foreclosure, the new owner must contact the tenant to tell the tenant about his rights, give contact information in case of emergency, honor an existing lease, enter a new lease, offer cash for keys (a minimum of $2000 to move out quickly), and give 90 days notice to vacate the property. If there is a new owner, tenant has all the rights and responsibilities of a tenant, and the new owner has all the rights and responsibilities of a landlord. IMPORTANT- If the new owner wants tenant out of the apartment, they have to go through the same eviction process that the previous owner would have to go through.

17 What if tenant needs a special accommodation due to disability? Tenant can ask that the landlord make a reasonable accommodation due to disability. An accommodation might be considered unreasonable if the accommodation sought is a financial burden on the landlord, or if the request is not possible. Not all housing is covered: single-family homes, two-family homes if owner-occupied, and owner-occupied rooming houses are exempt. 42 U.S.C. 3604, 29 U.S.C. 794, State: Con.Gen.Stat. 46a-64c

18 What if the landlord wants tenant out of the apartment? MUTUAL AGREEMENT/NON-RENEWAL OF LEASE The landlord may want Tenant to move for a number of reasons. If the decision to move is mutual (i.e. Tenant is at the end of the lease and wants to move), just make sure to give landlord proper notice and keep paying rent while living there. If the landlord has given Tenant notice that he will not renew the lease when it is up, and Tenant agrees to move, that is fine as well.

19 What if the landlord wants tenant out of the apartment? LOCKOUTS CGS 47a-43. Landlord must go through the eviction process to legally get tenant out of the apartment. If the landlord changes the locks to the apartment, or throws the belongings into the street, or goes to the apartment and starts threatening tenant, tenant should call the police immediately. The landlord is breaking the law by doing this. If tenant cannot get back into the apartment with the help of the police, he will have to file a Lockout Complaint with the court.

20 What if the landlord wants tenant out of the apartment? EVICTION Landlord can only evict Tenant for certain reasons. For more information, please see the Eviction Defense classroom.

21 What if the tenant wants to break the lease? If tenant wants to move out of the apartment before the lease is up, he will be breaking the lease. Tenant can ask the landlord if he will let tenant out of the lease. Tenant should get the landlord to put into writing that landlord releases tenant from any further obligations under the lease. If the landlord does not agree to let tenant out of the lease early, and the landlord cannot re-rent the apartment, he can sue the tenant for any rent due under the remainder of the lease. There are protections for certain categories of people, discussed on the following slides.

22 What if the tenant wants to break the lease? If tenant wants to move because he is 62 years old or older or has a disability and has gotten into subsidized housing, there is a law that protects him. As long as Tenant gives 30 days written notice, he will not be liable for the balance of the rent after the 30 days. CGS 8-116d.

23 What if the tenant wants to break the lease? If tenant needs to move out of the apartment due to domestic violence, there is a law that protects him. CGS 47a-11e. Tenant can terminate the lease and not be liable for the balance of the rent if he: Sends a letter to the landlord stating that he is a victim of domestic violence, he will break the lease for his safety, and he will leave the apartment by a certain date. He must send the letter 30 days before he will break the lease. It should be mailed certified mail and he should keep a copy for himself. He should also send the landlord a copy of a police report or a written statement from the Office of Victim Services.

24 What if the tenant wants to break the lease? Tenant still owes the landlord rent for the time he is there. If he owes the landlord any back rent or if he caused damage to the apartment while he was living there, he is still responsible for that. If he leaves any belongings in the apartment after the date he told the landlord he would be out, the landlord can get rid of the belongings. NOTE: If Tenant has Section 8 or are in federally subsidized housing, there are even more protections under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Visit

25 What does the tenant need to know when moving out of the apartment? Make sure to leave the apartment clean and in good condition. Take pictures of the apartment. Ask the landlord to do a final walk-through. If tenant, a guest, or household member damaged the apartment, tenant will be responsible for those repairs (either from the security deposit or to make the repair before he leaves). SECURITY DEPOSIT: For more information, please see the Security Deposit classroom.

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