Expert lays out renters' rights - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Expert lays out renters' rights

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Mother says she has trapped 100 mice in 5 months in her apartment (WFSB) Mother says she has trapped 100 mice in 5 months in her apartment (WFSB)

A story about a rat-infested apartment in Hartford prompted a flood of calls and emails from renters claiming that they were having the same kind of problems.

Experts said there are steps they can take to protect themselves.

Ashley Leveille and her three young children have been living with mice for months.

“Now they’re in my kids crib,” she said. “It's disgusting.”

Leveille said the rodents chewed up her child’s clothing and it’s only getting worse. This, even after a pest control company was called.

Eyewitness News tried to get answers from the landlord weeks ago.

“Would you live like this?” Leveille said. “Of course not. I'm doing best I can.”

Quinnipiac University Associate Professor of Law Carolyn Kaas said no matter what a renter’s level of income, they have rights.

“It's such a prevalent issue that there's a special part of superior court called housing court,” she explained.

If a renter brings their repairs or problems in writing to the landlord and nothing is done, there are steps that can be taken.

First, is to keep paying the rent.

“If they were to stop that just gives the landlord the power to try to evict them," Kaas said.

If the renter is up-to-date with the rent, a complaint can be filed with the town’s housing code enforcement office.

From there, the renter can go to Housing Court and file an action. There is a small fee, but that can be waived depending on the renter’s income.

“And the court would give you the right to make your payments of the rent into court and they would hold it safely for you while this action would be resolved,” Kaas said.

A judge could even decide to give the renter the rent money back.

“People shouldn't be afraid,” Kaas said. “People don't think they have these rights and feel powerless.”

If a renter files a complaint and the landlord threatens to evict, Kaas said it is illegal.

For more information on renters’ rights, click here.

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