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Housing advocates urge CT lawmakers to expand no-fault eviction law

FILE: Sonsharae Owens relocated to a hotel charging $90 a night after losing her home to a "no fault" eviction. The payment is a constant struggle but she said it was her only option to keep a roof over her head.
Joe Amon
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Connecticut Public
FILE: Sonsharae Owens relocated to a hotel charging $90 a night after losing her home to a "no fault" eviction. The payment is a constant struggle but she said it was her only option to keep a roof over her head.

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Connecticut housing advocates are encouraging state lawmakers to expand a law protecting residents from faultless eviction.

Connecticut’s “Just Cause” eviction law protects residents who are at least 62-years-old or have a disability, and live in a building with five or more units, from groundless evictions.

If these tenants are compliant they cannot be evicted without a legal reason. Advocates say the law should be expanded to at least include all tenants of larger apartment buildings of five or more units, regardless of age or disability.

No-fault evictions lead to displacement for many Connecticut renters, according to Sarah White, an attorney at the Connecticut Fair Housing Center.

“This is often used against tenants of color to push them out,” White said. “No-fault evictions are also sometimes used as retaliation against tenants who've asked for repairs or contacted the town about conditions that are unsafe.”

Renters who are under month-to-month leases feel an added layer of pressure, as the landlord can choose to evict a tenant at any point, White said.

“A landlord can ask you to move out and start an eviction if you don't, for no reason at all, even if you're paying your rent on time and have been a great tenant,” White said. “There are situations where landlords are coming in and buying up whole properties and giving everybody no fault eviction notices so they can essentially gentrify the property and bring in tenants who maybe can pay more rent.”

Allowing landlords to enact evictions without reason can lead to prejudiced landlords legally evicting residents of color, as it can be difficult to prove prejudicial intent, White said.

With existing eviction laws, landlords cannot evict tenants shortly after calling attention to unsafe living conditions, of which White said many tenants are unaware.

“There is a law we have in Connecticut, that creates sort of a presumption of retaliation within six months of someone asking for repairs or going to a town for repairs, or taking other action to protect their rights,” White said.

No-fault evictions are on the rise in Connecticut, amounting for nearly 11% of all evictions in the state. Prior to the start of the COVID pandemic in 2020, no-fault evictions were about 9% of annual evictions.

In 2022 a proposed bill that would have expanded the “Just Cause” law to encompass all large apartment building residents did not pass.

Expanding the law would help many tenants feel more comfortable advocating for themselves, according to Amanda Watts, vice president of a New Haven tenants union.

“It's just something tangible that I can show to my neighbors, my community is like, hey, if anybody tries to mess with you about this eviction and they have no reason to be serving you this eviction notice, you do have protection,” Watts said.

Abigail is Connecticut Public's housing reporter, covering statewide housing developments and issues, with an emphasis on Fairfield County communities. She received her master's from Columbia University in 2020 and graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2019. Abigail previously covered statewide transportation and the city of Norwalk for Hearst Connecticut Media. She loves all things Disney and cats.

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