May 21, 2004
PROCESS FOR EVICTING A HANDICAPPED TENANT
By: Sandra Norman-Eady, Chief Attorney
You asked if special rules apply to the eviction of a handicapped tenant.
With one exception, the process for evicting a handicapped tenant is the same as that for evicting any other tenant. It begins with the service of a notice to quit that states a statutory basis for eviction and ends with the return of the leased premises to the landlord either by a tenant's voluntary removal or his physical removal through the execution of a judgment for eviction.
The only difference is in the possible grounds for eviction. Most tenants can be evicted for lapse of time (i.e., upon the expiration of their lease). But the law (CGS § 47a-23c) prohibits aged (62 years of age or older), blind, or disabled tenants who reside in buildings with five or more separate dwelling units from being evicted for this reason. These tenants may be evicted only “for cause” (e.g., failure to pay rent, material noncompliance with the lease). A tenant is physically disabled under the statute if he relies on a wheelchair or other remedial appliance or device or has a chronic physical handicap, infirmity, or impairment that is congenital or resulting from a bodily injury, organic process or change, or illness, including epilepsy, deafness, or hearing impairment. The disability must be expected to result in death or to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months.
Tenants who fail to meet the definition of “disabled” or who live in buildings with less than five units can be evicted on one of five possible grounds: lapse of time, failure to pay rent, noncompliance with a landlord's rules or regulations, breach of statutory duties, and engaging in illegal conduct or conduct that constitutes a serious nuisance.
GROUNDS FOR EVICTION
Connecticut recognizes the following five grounds for eviction:
Expiration of the Lease. Once a lease expires, the landlord is under no obligation to renew it (except as indicated above). This is true whether the lease is written or oral, year-to-year, or month-to-month (CGS § 47a-15).
1. Nonpayment of Rent. If a tenant does not pay his rent, the landlord may evict him after a three-day grace period or before the time specified in the notice to quit. If the tenant pays the rent during the grace period, he cannot be evicted for nanpayment.
2. Breach of Tenant's Statutory Duties. Tenants have certain duties imposed on them by statute. Basically, these are to refrain from creating a nuisance or defacing the premises, to obey the health and fire codes, and to keep the premises clean and safe. Failure to perform these duties is a ground for eviction. If the tenant corrects the problem within 15 days and has not caused the same problem within the past six months, he cannot be evicted on this ground.
3. Breach of Lease Terms. A landlord may impose lease terms beyond just rental payments. Breach of these terms is a ground for eviction. The terms must, however, be rational, apply to everyone, and pertain to such things as the welfare of others or property damage prevention. As with a breach of statutory duties, if the tenant cures the breach within 15 days and has not caused the same problem within the past six months, it nullifies the breach.
4. Illegal Conduct or Serious Nuisance. An assault on a landlord or other tenant; use of the leased premises for gambling, prostitution, or to sell drugs; or other illegal conduct is a ground for eviction. Unlike a breach of lease terms or statutory duties, tenants cannot cure an eviction based on illegal conduct or serious nuisance (CGS §§ 47a-15 and -31).
SUMMARY PROCESS PROCEDURE
As stated above, summary process (eviction) begins when the landlord serves the notice to quit and files the summons and complaint. Generally, the process is as follows.
1. Notice to Quit. The landlord must serve the notice to quit three days before a rental agreement is terminated or before the date 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 (CGS § 47a-23a).
3. Appearance. A tenant must respond to the summons and complaint by filing an appearance with the court. 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. If he does not, 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 landlord 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. The tenant must file any appeal within this period (CGS § 47a-35). The court may grant an additional stay of up to six months if the tenant applies for it and proves, at a hearing, that he cannot not find other suitable premises in the same town or an adjacent town (CGS §§ 47-38 and –39).
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 of process action (CGS § 47a-26b).