Guaranteed lease renewal? Tenants and landlords clash at the state Capitol

Dozens of renters urged Connecticut lawmakers to ban “no fault” evictions on Tuesday, which would require most landlords to renew leases unless they can show “just cause.”

John Craven

Feb 20, 2024, 10:12 PM

Updated 63 days ago

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Dozens of renters urged Connecticut lawmakers to ban “no fault” evictions on Tuesday, which would require most landlords to renew leases unless they can show “just cause.”
But property owners said the move could make the state’s housing crisis even worse.
“WE MOVED ABOUT 5 TIMES"
Yenimar Cortez, of New Haven, grew up bouncing from home to home – at the mercy of landlords.
“My parents have been renting my whole life, since they moved to the United States,” she told the Legislature’s Housing Committee. “Growing up, we moved about five times from homes, due to our lease ending and not being renewed, or rent increasing."
Cortez is pushing a new bill that would require landlords to show “cause” to evict a tenant – even when their lease ends. Right now, only seniors 62 and older, and people with disabilities, are guaranteed a renewal. As with the current law, rental properties with fewer than five units would be exempt.
“Every renter in this room – every renter watching – is experiencing the housing crisis as their personal reality, not as a headline in the news,” said Hannah Srajer, president of the Connecticut Tenants Union.
Several tenants accused their landlords of using eviction to retaliate for complaining about poor conditions.
“The ceiling is cracked. I have to get a bucket to collect water,” Sharon Terrell, of Hartford, told lawmakers. “They raise the rent. You know why? Because they want us out, so they wouldn’t do anything in our apartments.”
UNFAIR TO LANDLORDS?
But landlords said the bill takes away their basic rights, and warned that it could make Connecticut’s apartment shortage even worse.
“The landlord will have to walk away,” said Daniel Lax, with the Connecticut Apartment Association. “You want to create more housing, but nature eventually is going to have to create a new balance based on what this law does.”
Landlords could still evict tenants for unpaid rent, keeping a unit unclean and unsafe or violating the lease. Property owners could also take the unit off the market, or move into it themselves.
But property managers said taking a tenant to court is costly for both sides.
“’Cause’ evictions are difficult to prove. I can't bring smoke into a courtroom; I can't bring noise into a courtroom,” said Lauren Tagliatela, with Franklin Communities. “We had a resident who repeatedly defecated in a common area of the building. They received several warnings and fines, but refused to stop this behavior. We did not renew their lease.”
The debate led to a tense exchange between Srajer and one lawmaker, who’s also a property manager.
"Is the discrimination based on the fact that the landlord is trying to make more of a profit?” asked state Sen. Rob Sampson (R-Wolcott).
“Yes,” Srajer answered.
Sampson continued.
“And is there something wrong with the landlord making a profit?”
A crowd of tenants shouted back: “Yes, yes! When it’s three times more."
WHAT’S NEXT?
The bill faces an uncertain future. Last year, lawmakers abandoned a proposal to cap increases at 4% plus inflation. New York and several other major cities have similar rent control laws.
If it passes, Gov. Ned Lamont said Tuesday that he would “look at” the idea.
“But most importantly, long term, it's not about more subsidies and regulation, it's a matter of building more housing – more affordable housing,” he said.


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