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.