A great wave of eviction cases against renters between 2017 to 2021, will have long-term consequences as thousands of potential tenants with tarnished records will find it difficult or impossible to rent even state-regulated affordable housing.
Landlords across the state filed 75,429 eviction cases in that four year period despite the pandemic eviction moratorium, according to a new report by the Connecticut Data Collaborative.
“When you hear the word moratorium, you think that zero evictions were filed. In fact, there were still eviction cases being filed during the moratorium and in recent months, the number of eviction cases filed by landlords has approached pre-pandemic levels,” said Michelle Riordan-Nold, executive director of the Connecticut Data Collaborative.
The emergency moratorium expired on Sept. 30, but by executive order Gov. Ned Lamont required that landlords apply for UniteCT emergency rental assistance before filing a nonpayment eviction case. Lamont also ordered that landlords provide a 30-day notice for most types of evictions.
Those added protections, scheduled to expire today, could still be extended by the legislature, but the difficulty for tenants is that once an eviction has been filed, it remains on the renter’s permanent record whether the landlord followed through with the case or not.
“An eviction filing serves as a barrier to all future tenancy because that tenant now has an eviction record,” said Fionnuala Hudgens-Darby, Director of Operations at Connecticut Fair Housing Center.
Data compiled by Connecticut Data Collaborative also show that evictions are disproportionately filed against female renters, and even more so against Black and Hispanic/Latino females.
Hudgens-Darby says that data reflects a legacy of discriminatory housing policies.
Prior to renting an apartment, landlords often screen applicants —usually by a third party company — for rental, eviction, credit, criminal and sex offense histories, and any can be flagged as reasons for rejection.
Even when applying to rent affordable housing, a prior eviction usually results in an automatic rejection of an application.
“That is typically one of the red flags that would cause an initial denial,” said Janel Cobb, director of property management at NeighborWorks/New Horizons, which manages affordable units in New Haven, New London and Fairfield Counties.
Cobb said any applicant has the right to an appeal process, but only 25 to 30 percent are able to overturn a rejection.
“It’s an initial rejection because you don’t know everybody’s story. [The appeals process] presents the opportunity to have the conversation about what the situation could have been, but you always want to see them pay off the primary landlord as well,” she said. “Obviously, we want to rent to those that have a good payment history.”
Carol Martin, executive director of the Fairfield Housing Authority, said there is no state law that says you can’t rent to a person with an eviction record, but it falls under the screening process along with criminal and credit background checks.
She said organizations like hers will look at an applicant’s entire history.
“Housing authorities and other nonprofits in fields of housing — we would look at it with a much broader context, it’s not black and white, Everything is appeal-able,” she said.
Editor’s Note: Erin Kemple, executive director of Connecticut Fair Housing Center, said that throughout the pandemic, landlords have been permitted to file summary process actions, however the reason for the filing and the timing of the filing has been limited and at times slowed down by the eviction moratorium.