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CT landlords speak out against proposed expansion of tenants eviction rights

FILE, 2023: Protestors outside New Haven City Hall listen as Sarah Giovanniello, co-vice president of the Blake Street tenant union, and a 3-year resident of the Elizabeth Apartments on Blake Street in New Haven, speaks out against at a rally after she said 16 of her neighbors found Notices to Quit on their apartment doors in what was seen as retalitation by the building's management company after residents formed a tenant's union.
Mark Mirko
/
Connecticut Public
FILE, 2023: Protestors outside New Haven City Hall listen as Sarah Giovanniello, co-vice president of the Blake Street tenant union, and a 3-year resident of the Elizabeth Apartments on Blake Street in New Haven, speaks out against at a rally after she said 16 of her neighbors found Notices to Quit on their apartment doors in what was seen as retalitation by the building's management company after residents formed a tenant's union.

Connecticut landlords are speaking out against a proposed bill that would limit their eviction abilities.

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.

Expansion of the state’s “Just Cause” law would prevent landlords from removing compliant tenants without legal grounds, resulting in a “no-fault” eviction.

The law is used by landlords to remove unruly tenants, according to Dondre Roberts, a New Haven landlord and Connecticut Apartment Association member.

“When this is used, although it’s rare, it’s used for a very important reason to secure our communities,” Roberts 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.

Opponents of a bill increasing just cause protections, say a preferred alternative to expanding “just cause” is finding ways to increase housing stock.

“What we’re focused on is increasing supply. We think that is at the heart of what we need,” Roberts said. “Last year Gov. Lamont said we’re short 89,000 units. This bill doesn’t create any additional units that we need.”

The “Just Cause” law is used both in situations where a tenant violated a lease and when the tenants’ behavior falls outside the lease agreement, Roberts said.

“Contracts have a start and end date, so if we have a resident that isn;t complying with the lease, we would simply say, ‘Listen, out of concern for the community, and your residents and you neighbors who we care for, we’re not going to offer you a renewal,’” Roberts said.

The existing law grants landlords too much power and leads to existing resident displacement to raise rent, Connecticut Tenants Union (CTTU) Vice President Luke Melonakos-Harrison said.

“The assumption there, is that the landlord should have unchecked power to determine what behavior a tenant is doing that rises to the level of disruptive,” Melonakos-Harrison said.

Advocates say adding housing wouldn’t necessarily remove the issue of “Just Cause,” and would cost the state millions in construction.

“I don’t really understand what their actual practical policy rebuttal is to what we’re asking for, which actually doesn’t cost anything,” CTTU President Hannah Srajer said.

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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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