How to Deal with a Challenging Tenant in Connecticut

It’s something that every landlord has stressed about: tenants who end up creating enormous stress through nonpayment, noise violations, property damage, or some combination of these things. In fact, stories of less-than-perfect tenants can sometimes be so harsh that would-be landlords are often deterred from even getting started as rental owners. Some level of trepidation in this area makes sense; a bad tenant can definitely cause serious stress, and can even lead landlords into severe financial hardship.

Every landlord wants to know: if one of these scenarios arises, what should I do? In this post, we will discuss how landlords can deal with a challenging tenant. Even if you deal with things perfectly on your end, a bad tenant can still create quite a bit of drama. But if you follow these general principles, you should be able to minimize the damage in most cases.

Violations

Lease violations can take many different forms; everything ultimately depends on the precise content of your agreement. Lease agreements typically include requirements on noise levels, property alteration, number of occupants, and so forth. It’s not uncommon to have a tenant violate one or more terms of the lease. In these situations, you have remedies.

If your tenant has violated the lease, you must give that tenant an opportunity to correct the problem before seeking an eviction. You need to give the tenant a 15 day written notice, and if the tenant hasn’t corrected the behavior during this window, then you may move forward with the eviction process.

Nonpayment

When a tenant fails to pay a portion or all of his or her rent, this can be even more frustrating than lease violations. Many Connecticut landlords depend on rental income to pay fixed expenses, and a nonpaying tenant can quickly become a serious problem. Tenants in Connecticut have a 9 day grace period to pay rent. This means that, after this grace period, landlords may move forward with the eviction process and issue the 3 day notice to quit. If the tenant fails to move out after the third day, summary process may then be commenced.

Evictions are always messy, and in some cases they can set you back financially in a substantial way. Before moving forward with the eviction process, it may be in your best interest to approach your tenant gently and attempt to resolve the matter informally. This can be done by establishing a payment plan, or by allowing your tenant to perform maintenance work for a discount, or finding some other arrangement. If you are unable to settle the matter through an alternative arrangement, then you should move forward with the eviction process. As mentioned, this involves posting a 3 day notice to quit after the expiration of the grace period, and then obtaining a court order through the normal channels. 

Remember to Avoid “Self-Help”

Whatever you do, be sure that to avoid taking any sort of “self-help” actions. As you may recall from our previous discussions, self-help actions refer to any attempts to remove the tenant (or forcibly encourage the tenant to leave) independently without utilizing the proper eviction procedure. This is heavily frowned upon here in Connecticut, and doing so can even jeopardize your eviction. 

Contact the Apex Law Firm for Additional Information

Challenging tenants are just that…challenging. The key, however, is to remain calm and then exhaust all attempts to rectify the situation in a straightforward, financially prudent way. Then, move forward with an eviction if you have no other remedy. If you’d like additional information, reach out to the Apex Law Firm today.

Evicting a Tenant in Connecticut

Evicting a tenant is no small matter. An eviction can be among the more stressful experiences a person can experience, both for tenants and landlords. For tenants, an eviction can damage credit and impede the ability to obtain a new rental unit in the future. For landlords, the eviction process can be mentally draining and financially disadvantageous, as landlords miss rent payments and spend money on costly repairs. But, though this is the case, sometimes evictions are necessary in order to correct a defective situation. 

In this post, we will provide a thorough introduction to the eviction process here in Connecticut. We will cover the basic grounds for eviction, notice requirements, procedure, and the basic defenses to eviction. Importantly, this overview is limited to the normal procedures of Connecticut State law, we are not covering anything related to the eviction orders under COVID-19.

Grounds for Eviction

In the State of Connecticut, evictions are governed by the Landlord and Tenant Act. This law lays out all the rules and procedures which apply to evictions. The two most commonly cited reasons for eviction are nonpayment of rent and violation of the lease. Nonpayment of rent is straightforward: when a tenant fails to pay some or all the rent due at a given time, this nonpayment may provide grounds for eviction. Violation of the lease can take many different forms, and ultimately depends on the specific provisions of a given lease. But common examples of violations include things such as noise complaints, ownership of forbidden pets, damage or prohibited alteration of the unit, and so forth.

Notice Requirements for Non-Payment & Violations

When a landlord seeks to evict a tenant, the landlord must follow the lawful procedure for doing so. A landlord cannot simply decide to evict a tenant without going through the normal eviction process. Part of the eviction process involves the notice requirements for violations. Before a landlord can go to court in Connecticut and request an eviction order, the landlord must first provide notice to the tenant. The notice to the tenant is intended to either allow opportunity to correct a violation, or give the tenant a chance to remove himself or herself from the unit voluntarily. For nonpayment of rent, all tenants in CT have a 9 day grace period. After that, the landlord can serve a 3 day “notice to quit” to a tenant. This gives the tenant 3 days to leave the unit; after that, the landlord can move forward with requesting the eviction order from the court.

For lease violations, landlords must provide a 15 day initial notice to tenants. This notice identifies the source of the violations and gives the tenant the opportunity to correct the situation. After the 15 days, the landlord may then terminate the lease and issue the 3 day notice to quit if the violation hasn’t been corrected. Subsequently, the landlord may proceed with an eviction request.

Basic Overview of Eviction Process

If the tenant has not corrected the situation, and the 3 days following the notice to quit have expired, the landlord can move forward and request an eviction order. This means that the landlord can file a writ; a summons and complaint with the court in order to evict the tenant. The court will set a hearing date on which the matter will be decided. At the hearing, tenants can challenge the eviction by providing any number of defenses. If the tenant fails to provide an adequate defense, or doesn’t show at the hearing, then the eviction will ordinarily be granted.

Basic Defenses to Eviction

In order to combat an eviction, a tenant can raise a range of viable defenses. One defense against an eviction is when a landlord takes actions to compel a tenant to leave without an eviction order. For instance, if a landlord disconnects utilities, or changes the locks, this would qualify as unauthorized behavior without an eviction order in place. This falls under the category of “self-help” actions, and taking such actions can lead to a tenant successfully defeating an eviction order.

Another potentially viable defense can occur when a landlord fails to follow proper procedure. This can happen when a landlord fails to provide adequate notice to a tenant for nonpayment of rent or a lease violation. If the tenant doesn’t receive adequate notice, this can serve as a viable defense. Another possible defense is when a tenant is accused of nonpayment, but actually did pay during the 9 day grace period. Or, the tenant may have a defense against nonpayment if the rental unit itself wasn’t properly maintained by the landlord. If the landlord fails to provide heat, or fails to fix an appliance, this may provide a defense against nonpayment by the tenant. 

It is important to note that a tenant may not unilaterally withhold rent for violations of the lease agreement by the landlord. A tenant must also follow proper procedures to ensure his/her own protection. Neither tenant nor landlord should take matters into their own hands. Consulting with an attorney experienced in housing matters is essential to protect your rights.

Contact the Apex Law Firm for More Info

This is just an introduction to the eviction process in Connecticut. In the future, we may dive back into one or more of these issues in greater detail. For now, if you’d like additional information, or if you have an eviction issue, contact the APEX Law Firm today by calling 860-900-0900.

Basic Points of Connecticut Housing Law

The law which governs landlord-tenant relationships (also referred to as ‘housing law’) is a complex branch of Connecticut jurisprudence. There are many statutes, local ordinances and regulations which apply to and govern landlord-tenant relationships in the State of Connecticut. Each section or topic within Connecticut housing law can be broken down and analyzed at considerable length. In this post, however, our goal is simply to convey the most basic concepts of this large body of law. We will look at a few of the major aspects of landlord-tenant law in Connecticut. In future posts, we will likely return and analyze one or more of these sections in greater detail. For instance, we may return and discuss rules pertaining to late fees under Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. §§ 47a-3a and 47a-4(a)(8) 47a-15a.

Landlord Disclosures

One aspect of Connecticut landlord-tenant law pertains to the disclosures which landlords are required to make pursuant to a lease or rental agreement. For example, landlords are required to disclose whether there is any known presence of lead on the property. Landlords must also provide tenants with information about where the tenant’s security deposit is being held and the account details. This of more often overlooked and few tenants are unaware of the requirement and fail to request such disclosure.

Security Deposits

Connecticut landlord-tenant law also lays out rules pertaining to security deposits. The law provides limits on the ceiling amount for security deposits, as well as the deadline for when deposit money must be returned to former tenants. The ceiling for security deposits in Connecticut is capped at two month’s rent. This includes a pet deposit where applicable. So, a landlord cannot ask for two months security deposit and a pet fee too. The deadline for returning security deposit money is the latter of either 30 days after move out or within 15 days of receiving the tenant’s new address. Security deposits must include any accrued interest paid on the balance.

Late Fees & Rights to Withhold Rent

Connecticut landlord-tenant law also governs late fees for rent, as well as tenant rights to withhold rent under certain conditions. For instance, under current Connecticut law, renters may withhold paying rent when certain repairs aren’t made following a request. For instance, if a heater breaks down and isn’t fixed, then this may furnish grounds for withholding rent. Or, tenants may conduct their own repairs to broken items and then subtract the costs from future rents. Connecticut law lays out the specific rules for these circumstances in detail, so a tenant should never just withhold rent before speaking with an experienced attorney or fully understanding the law.

Termination & Eviction

Connecticut law also gives particular rules pertaining to the termination and eviction of tenants. Certain actions (or failures) may provide grounds for termination or eviction, but landlords cannot simply terminate or evict a tenant for no reason. For instance, if a tenant behaves in a manner which violates a specific aspect of a lease agreement, then this may give grounds for termination. Or, if a tenant fails to pay rent, a landlord can serve a Notice to Quit which terminated the lease and allows the landlord to file an eviction to remove the tenant. The law pertaining to termination and eviction is vast, which makes sense because these areas are sensitive and deal with many controversial issues.

Contact Apex Law Firm for Additional Counsel

Again, this is merely a very basic introduction to the landlord-tenant laws of the State of Connecticut. As mentioned, this body of law is quite large, and so we will need to cover this law in at least a few more posts before our readers can really get a sense of how landlord-tenant rules operate. For now, if you’d like more information, or if you have a particular issue with a landlord or tenant at the present time, contact the Apex Law Firm today. Call us at 860-900-0900 and we can discuss your case right away.