I-TEAM: Tenants, advocates across CT want rent cap, ban on no-cause evictions; State Senator introduces bill
(WFSB) - Tenants across the state of CT say rent is simply too high, and each year, they face rent increases they can’t afford. Now, a proposed bill in the legislature would put a 2.5% cap on annual increases.
CAP THE RENT CT CAMPAIGN:
Several dozen tenants, tenant unions, and other CT organizations met Thursday night over ZOOM, to kick off a campaign they’re calling Cap the Rent CT.
They want the state to control how much landlords can increase rent each year.
“Many of us are tired, I get it. I’m tired too. Many of us are tired of patchwork, band aid fixes, fighting hard every day, getting uneven and temporary solutions,” says Greta Blau of the Hamden Tenants Union.
Despite being tired, Blau says it’s more important than ever to fight for tenants.
She says rent increases and evictions are out of control. Sarah White of the CT Fair Housing Center, and CT Tenants Union agrees.
“Time and again, we’ve seen corporate landlords increase rent by hundreds of dollars a month. In one case, $1,000,” says WHite. Not because their costs are going up that much or because they’re finally fixing things but because they’re taking advantage of the pandemic and a tight housing market to exploit and profit off of tenants even more.”
“Housing security in our society is unfortunately a privilege,” says Blau. “If you do not have to consider where you will live each year, if you do not have to worry about ensuring your children will have continuity and community and education, then you are fortunate.”
That’s why Blau, along with dozens of other tenant unions, advocates, and organizations across the state are asking for a 2.5% to 3% annual cap on rent increases.
State Senator Gary Winfield, representing New Haven and West Haven, recently introduced a bill that would do just that. He said he’s heard from too many tenants with too many problems, not to introduce a solution.
PROPOSED RENT CAP BILL:
“Some of the stories I’ve heard about people who had a $900 rent and then found out they had a $1600-$1700 rent seem incredible,” says Senator Winfeld. “I think this is a conversation we really need to engage in so that the people in CT have a place to live to be honest with you.”
The idea is to protect tenants, especially in cases where they face rent increases but their landlord fails to fix problems with the property.
“Even though they live in apartments with mold, pests and unsafe electric systems,” says Juan Fonseca Tapia of Greater Hartford Interfaith Action Alliance.
“I’ve heard horror stories about the increases in rent. As this bill moves forward, clearly there will be discussion about whether it’s 2.5, 3, 3.5 whatever the case may be. That number potentially changes,” says Senator Whitfiled. “In general, what we’re saying to landlords is, you do sometimes need to raise the rent and we recognize that, that’s why there’s a cap, not a restriction on raising the rent. But the raising of the rent hopefully is something that takes into account the realities that the landlord has but also takes into account that people in those apartments have the need for a space in which to live.”
HOW DO LANDLORDS FEEL?
David Haberfeld has been a landlord for 18 years. He currently owns about 57 apartments.
He says the bill is well intentioned, but a rent cap can’t and won’t work.
”I think that they haven’t thought it through. They’re not understanding the economics of housing,” says Haberfeld. “Our labor costs have gone up, our material costs are up, our taxes, our insurance, the prices of the properties.”
State Senator Winfield says there will be exceptions in the cap, and property taxes as well as other expenses will be considered.
Haberfeld says it doesn’t make sense to cap rent, to force landlords to fix properties. He says a cap would only make things worse.
“Landlords that don’t fix their apartments and keep them up, that is definitely not okay. But we already have something in place to combat that and that’s code enforcement,” says Haberfeld. “Going to them and telling them we’re going to cap your rent that you can charge doesn’t make any sense when you’re trying to combat them for not cleaning up their apartments. If you cap the income, cap the rents, where are the landlords going to cut corners? They’re going to cut corners in places you don’t want them to, I’m sure.”
Bob De Cosmo, president of the CT Property Owners Alliance said in a statement, “to the point, capping rents without capping operating expenses is just not feasible. Property taxes are set to go up as much as 20% in July, insurance costs have increased more than 100% over the past couple years, Eversource Energy raised its generation fee by 100%, building material costs have sky-rocked and there’s no end in sight. This policy will also make it more difficult for the average renter to find apartments as owners if income is limited, will raise their underwriting standards for tenant applicants to be accepted and will put more people at risk of homelessness, it’s just a poorly conceived concept.”
The bill would also ban no-cause evictions.
“What we’re trying to prevent is a landlord being able to say hey, you’re done - goodbye, no notice, no anything, no information as to why you were evicted,” says Senator Whitfeld. “To my mind, it doesn’t seem to be such a huge ask. I know there are those who would disagree with me.”
Landlord David Haberfeld says “It’s extremely important that property owners have the ability to evict for a lapse of time, for a no reason cause.
He said for example, in cases where the landlord wants to sell the building or wants to evict a drug dealer, who may be paying rent, but is not the type of tenant he wants.
Tenants say they aren’t giving up.
They said they would be using petitions, phone banks and other resources, to get through to the legislature. “We’re fighting for people to be able to choose where they live, how long they can stay where they live and how deeply they can put down roots,” says Hannah Srajer of the New Haven Democratic Socialists of America. “Together, whether homeowner or renter, across rent class and zip code, we’re going to show our electric officials that rent stabilization now is the will of the people of CT.”
The next step for the bill is to move to committee and then go to a public hearing. It has not done so yet.
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