March 1, 2006
STATE FUNDED HOUSING FOR THE ELDERLY AND EVICTIONS
By: Joseph Holstead, Associate Analyst
You asked (1) for information on the eviction process in state housing for elderly and non-elderly disabled people, (2) about eligibility for tenancy in this type of housing, and (3) what the legislature has done recently to address conflicts between younger and older tenants in this type of housing.
Under state law, elderly, disabled, or blind tenants may only be evicted for good cause. This means that these tenants cannot be evicted because their lease expires. An eviction, called “summary process,” begins when a landlord serves a tenant with a notice to quit. If the tenant fails to respond to this notice by refusing to move from the rented premises, the landlord may initiate proceedings in Superior Court by filing a summons and complaint. Tenants can respond to the complaint. If tenants contest the action, the court tries the case and enters judgment. The process ends when the court orders the judgment executed.
Since 1961, the statutory definition of those eligible to live in affordable state housing for the elderly has included people age 62 and older and those certified as disabled by the Social Security Board. The definition was amended in 1991 to include those certified as disabled by other federal boards or agencies, in addition to the Social Security Board.
In 2005, the legislature enacted PA 05-239, An Act Implementing the Recommendations of the Legislative Program Review and Investigations Committee (PRI) Relating to the Populations in State Elderly and Disabled Housing Projects. The act requires several state agencies to reach out to and work with tenants in affordable state housing for elderly, among other things.
“GOOD CAUSE” AND SUMMARY PROCESS
Elderly (over 62), disabled, and blind people cannot be evicted except for good cause. Good cause is defined as:
1. nonpayment of rent;
2. refusal to agree to a fair and equitable rent increase;
3. material noncompliance with tenants' statutory responsibilities concerning such things as the condition of the apartment, trash removal, and conducting themselves so as not to disturb their neighbors or be a nuisance (the noncompliance must materially affect other tenants' health and safety or the premises' physical condition);
4. voiding of the rental agreement because the tenant was convicted of using the premises for prostitution or illegal gambling, or material noncompliance with the rental agreement; or
5. material noncompliance with a landlord's rules and regulations concerning use and occupancy (CGS § 47a 23c).
Summary process begins when the landlord serves the notice to quit and files the summons and complaint. The length of time it takes to evict a tenant after this service and filing depends on whether the tenant has a defense he intends to pursue and the landlord's diligence in wanting the tenant out. Generally, the process is as follows.
1. Notice to Quit. The notice to quit must be served three days before a rental agreement is terminated or three days before the time specified in the notice to quit (CGS § 47a-23).
2. Summons and Complaints. If the tenant does not quit possession by the end of the three-day period, any commissioner of the Superior Court may issue a summons and complaint to be served upon the tenant. The landlord may have the complaint served on any day of the week and may have it returnable six days thereafter. He must return it to the court at least three days before the return day (CGS § 47a-23a).
3. Appearance. A tenant must respond to the summons and complaint by filing an appearance with the court within two days after the return date. If the tenant does not file an appearance, the landlord may file (a) a motion for judgment for failure to appear and (b) an endorsed copy of the notice to quit with the court clerk. The court must then enter a judgment against the tenant and issue an order to vacate (CGS § 47a-26).
4. Answer to Complaint. In addition to filing an appearance, the tenant should file a summary process answer within two days after the return date. If the tenant does not file an answer within the two-day period, a landlord can file a motion for judgment based on failure to plead. And if the tenant fails to plead within three days after receipt of the motion by the clerk, the court must enter judgment against the tenant (CGS § 47a-26a).
5. Trial. A trial is scheduled after pleadings are closed (after the complaint has been answered and any special defenses have been raised and countered) (CGS § 47a-26d).
6. Judgment and Execution. A judgment is entered after the trial. If judgment is entered for a landlord, he must ask the court for an order of execution, which requires the tenant to move. After the court issues the execution, it must be given to a sheriff for proper service. The sheriff then serves the execution on the tenant. The sheriff is required to use reasonable efforts to locate and notify the tenant of the eviction date and time. After this period, the sheriff can physically remove the tenant's possession (CGS § 47-26d).
7. Stay of Execution. The law provides for an automatic five-day stay of execution (CGS § 47a-35). During the five days, a tenant can ask the court for an additional stay of up to six months.
A landlord can file a motion for use and occupancy once a tenant files an appearance. Once the motion is filed, the court can order a tenant to pay the last agreed-upon rent to the court during the pendency of the summary process action (CGS § 47a-26b).
DEFINITION OF “ELDERLY PERSONS”
People eligible to live in state affordable housing for the elderly must be (1) at least age 62 and above without the necessary income, as determined by the housing authority or nonprofit corporation, subject to approval by the Department of Economic and Community Development commissioner, to live in decent, safe, and sanitary housing without financial assistance or (2) certified by the Social Security Board as totally disabled under the federal Social Security Act or certified by any other federal board or agency as being totally disabled (CGS § 8-113a).
The act makes several changes to address concerns about elderly and non-elderly disabled people living in state-assisted elderly housing projects. It requires (1) state social service agencies to assist local housing authorities to identify and access their services and (2) several agencies to develop plans detailing their outreach efforts, available services, and crisis intervention activities.
The act also requires a comprehensive assessment of rental assistance needs for state-assisted elderly and disabled housing projects and a comprehensive inventory of all state and federally assisted housing in the state.
It requires a number of reports to legislative committees, including a report by February 1, 2006 from the DECD to the PRI. The report must describe DECD's progress in a number of areas, such as revising the elderly and disabled housing operating manual, providing specified training to housing authorities, addressing security issues, reassessing the duties and qualifications of resident service coordinators at these housing projects, and planning for a statewide manager position for the resident service coordinator program.
We have attached a copy of the entire public act summary for your reference, as well as the February 2006 DECD update the act requires. PA 05-239 is codified at CGS § 8-37ff and 8-119ll of the 2006 supplement to the Connecticut General Statutes.