February 17, 2010
RIGHTS OF A LONG-TERM GUEST AT A RESIDENCE
By: Emilee Mooney Scott, Legislative Fellow
You asked about the rights of a person staying at the home of another person on a long-term, but informal, basis. Specifically, you asked (1) when and how such a guest may gain legal protections equivalent to those afforded to official tenants and (2) how the primary resident may have a person who began staying with them as a guest, but refuses to leave, removed.
This office is not authorized to give legal opinions and this report should not be construed as such.
The state's landlord-tenant laws protect people living in dwellings owned or leased by others. A person need not be listed on a formal lease to gain protection under these laws, but may gain protection by establishing residence in a place. Transient guests, however, are not protected and the dwelling's primary occupant may cause them to be removed. Transient status is determined on a case-by-case basis, focusing on whether the person has control over and possession of the space in question. The court considers such factors as how long the person has lived in the dwelling, whether he or she receives mail there, and the degree of control that he or she has over the space.
When a homeowner or apartment tenant wishes to remove a person staying with them, and that person can no longer be considered a transient guest, the typical eviction procedures must be followed. Thus, law enforcement personnel may only remove transient guests from a dwelling. Law enforcement personnel with whom we spoke confirmed that before removing an individual from a home, whether rented or owner-occupied, they would determine that the person was a guest. To make this determination they would use factors such as length of stay and whether the person receives mail, and not rely upon whether or not the person was listed on a lease.
Connecticut has a system of landlord-tenant laws that protect tenants and other occupants of dwelling units. Certain living arrangements are exempted from the landlord-tenant laws, including “transient occupancy in a hotel or motel or similar lodging” (CGS § 47a-2(a)(4)). The statute defines transient occupancy as follows:
(1) Occupancy in a hotel, motel or similar lodging for less than thirty days is transient, except that such occupancy is not transient if the dwelling unit or room in such hotel, motel or lodging is occupied as the primary residence of the occupant from the beginning of such occupancy; and
(2) Occupancy in a hotel, motel or similar lodging for thirty days or more is not transient, except that such occupancy is transient if the dwelling unit or room in such hotel, motel or lodging is not occupied as the primary residence of the occupant and the occupancy is for less than ninety days (CGS § 47a-2(c)).
Courts have considered several factors in determining whether a person is a transient guest. Such factors include:
1. length of stay;
2. existence of a lease or other “special contract for the room;”
3. receipt of mail;
4. access to cooking facilities;
5. degree of control over the space (such as whether the person has his or her own key);
6. whether the person has another residence; and
7. the extent to which the person has made the dwelling his or her home for the time being (Bourque v. Morris, 190 Conn. 364, 369 (1983), State v. Anonymous, 34 Conn. Sup. 603, 605 (1977)).
These factors allow the court to determine whether the person has possession and control over the space in the manner that an official tenant would. A unilateral intention on the part of the occupant to remain indefinitely is not enough; all of the circumstances of the transaction must be considered (Bourque, 190 Conn. at 369).
For example, in Bourque v. Morris, the court held that a person was a transient guest at a hotel even though he had stayed there for more than three months and had no other home. While those factors were significant, the court also noted that “the operation of the premises as a licensed hotel, the rudimentary nature of the accommodations furnished, without cooking, bathing or toilet facilities in the room, [were] some indication that only a temporary living arrangement was intended.” But in State v. Anonymous, the court held that the state had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that a person was a transient guest when he had rented an efficiency apartment for four weeks on a week to week basis.
While the transient status statute mentions only hotels and motels, the courts use the same analysis to determine whether a person is a guest in a private home. For example, a person who lived in his fiancée's home for several years and contributed to household expenses was held not to be a tenant because he paid no fixed amount as rent, had no fixed period of occupancy, and was in a romantic relationship with the homeowner which she could have terminated at any time (Allstate Ins. Co. v. Palumbo, 109 Conn. App. 731, 740 (2008)).
The relationship between the occupant and the primary resident of the dwelling may be a significant factor in determining whether the occupant should be treated as a tenant or a guest. As noted above, in Allstate Insurance Co. v. Palumbo the homeowner's fiancé was held to be a guest rather than a tenant because “the landowner could terminate his stay at any time by terminating their relationship.” The New Haven Housing Court took a similar approach in determining whether a man could be prevented from returning to live at his mother's home after his release from prison (Victor Popolizio v. Arnold Popolizio, CVNH 97109-8475 (11/3/97)). The court found that the son could be prevented from living at the home because he had not exercised the requisite control over the premises, and did not have a formal rental agreement. The court stated that its finding was:
[i]nformed by logic, common sense, practical considerations of everyday life, and societal customs, standards and practices with respect to occupancy arrangements between a parent who owns or leases a dwelling unit and an adult child residing in the dwelling unit without a rental agreement…
The court held that the plaintiff had resided with his mother at her pleasure, so she could have him removed at will.
The process for removing an occupant is the same regardless of whether the rental unit is a room within a single-family residence or an apartment in a multi-unit building (see OLR Report 07-R-0381). This is true even if the primary resident is a renter. Subtenants are protected under the landlord-tenant laws, and tenants have standing to evict subtenants (CGS §47a-1; W. Boot & Clothing Co. v. L'Enfance Magique, 81 Conn. App. 486, 490 (2004)).
Eviction is accomplished through summary process, which proceeds as follows:
1. Notice to Quit. The landlord must serve the notice to quit before a rental agreement is terminated (CGS § 47a-23).
2. Summons and Complaints. If the tenant does not quit possession by the date specified in the notice, any commissioner of the Superior Court may issue a summons and complaint to be served on 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 or she 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 or she 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 state marshal for proper service. The state marshal then serves the execution on the tenant. The state marshal is required to use reasonable efforts to locate and notify the tenant of the eviction date and time. After this period, the state marshal can physically remove the tenant's possessions (CGS § 47a-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 or she cannot find other suitable premises in the same town or an adjacent town (CGS §§ 47a-38 and –39).