BRISTOL, CT (WFSB) – An evicted tenant trashed his landlord’s home on his way out.
The damages are in the tens of thousands of dollars and put a spotlight on the problems some landlords are having during the pandemic.
Channel 3 is getting answers about what landlords can do to fight back.
This was an extreme case, but the reality is that landlords have their hands tied. In many cases, they can’t evict, and they can’t demand rent due to the pandemic, so Channel 3 wanted to look at what they can do.
Channel 3 was first to uncover the houses of horrors in Bristol on Tuesday. Profanity spray painted on walls, rice and paint splattered all over. All done, according to David Haberfeld, by a tenant who had been living for free for 14 months.
“Just generally made a mess and made sure to ruin the carpets,” Haberfeld said.
Before that, Channel 3 was the only station to show you a home in East Hartford where the landlord says the tenant left his dog behind, covered in feces.
“As you can see, there was a rodent that just came out of the dog food bag,” said Michael Sullivan, East Hartford landlord.
In both cases, landlords say they were the victims of a tenant who used the pandemic assistance to the extreme.
“He’d sit there saying, ‘I’ll stay as long as I want because I’m protected,’” Sullivan said.
“This eviction is going to cost me between $22,000 to $24,000 by the time it’s done, including this damage,” Haberfeld said.
While these may be extreme cases, both men are who you would call “mom and pop” landlords. They don’t have a big company with a big insurance policy behind them.
Economics lecturer Brian Marks from the University of New Haven says it’s those types of businessmen who are put in a tough spot.
“From the landlord’s perspective, we’re looking at an unconstitutional taking of property rights,” Marks said.
Haberfeld is one of dozens of landlords who is suing the state. That case is still in the system, but the state has offered landlord assistance in the form of financial relief.
“Does that offset the foregone rent because of the moratorium? That’s suspect, it could be questionable,” Marks said.
Marks says getting commercial insurance is an option.
“That does increase the cost of operation,” Marks said.
In Bristol, it’s being passed on to the tenants who pay their rent faithfully.
“Tenants will end up picking up the tab. I pay it. I have to raise rents to over the eight or nine tenants I have who aren’t paying,” Haberfeld said.
In Connecticut, housing court has opened up. It’s virtual and only pre-pandemic cases, like the one in Bristol and East Hartford, are being heard. That’s because right now, there needs to be other reasons, outside of non-payment, to start an eviction.
Experts say expect the floodgates to open at the end of June when the pause of the rent payments are lifted.