All about Connecticut's eviction right to counsel

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01/13/2023, Legislation, Housing - Evictions

UPDATE: report shows effectiveness of first 10 months of RTC

 

Stout has released a report that examines the impact of Connecticut's statewide right to counsel from 1/31/22 - 11/30/22.  It found that:

 

  • Of the 82% of clients that wanted to prevent an involuntary move, 71% achieved that goal;
 
  • Of the 80% that sought to avoid an eviction on their record, 76% achieved that goal.
 
  • The estimated cost savings to the state were $5.8 - $6.3 million.
 

In terms of client demographics:

 

  • 75% of all the RTC clients identified as non-white;
 
  • Nearly 50% of RTC households had a member with a disability;
 
  • Nearly 50% of RTC households had a child;
 
  • 59% indicated they had defective conditions in their homes, which may have contributed to the 32% of clients that indicated they did not want to stay in their homes.

 

The report's release was covered by the Connecticut Mirror, which also looked at right to counsel client racial demographics,

 

Notably, the eviction filing rate as of early 2023 is higher than pre-pandemic levels (and having an especially detrimental impact on families with children), indicating the urgency of full epxansion of the right to counsel statwewide.  Yet as Connecticut Public Radio reports, there is not yet funding available for statewide implementation

 

UPDATE: right to counsel set to go live in January 2022

 

The Connecticut Insider reports that the state's eviction right to counsel law will launch in January 2022 and provide counsel to all tenants at 80% or below of area median income. Law dot com has more.  There is also a website portal for Connecticut tenants looking for assistance.

 

UPDATE: the bill is law!

 

On May 27, the right to counsel bill passed through the House and Senate, it has now been signed by the Governor.  CT Post has the latest.

 

UPDATE: Governor proposes $20 million of federal funding to support right to counsel

 

The Governor of Connecticut has put $20 million of federal Fiscal Recovery Funds (FRF) for tenant representation in his proposed budget, which will greatly bolster efforts to enact the statewide tenant right to counsel bill (CT HB 6531).  In the Milford Mirror, the CT House Speaker said he liked to see this and that right to counsel is “a big deal”.

 

Additionally, opinion pieces appeared in the Connecticut Mirror and New Haven Independent in support of the right to counsel.  The first was written by health experts and the second (which was penned by advocates) argued that right to counsel is a LGBTQ issue.  The Appeal covered the efforts to get right to counsel enacted in Connecticut. 

 

UPDATE: Additional statewide right to counsel bill filed, has hearing

 

A new bill, HB 6531, has been filed that would provide a right to counsel for all indigent tenants facing eviction.  On March 4, 2021, the bill had a hearing before the House Housing Committee at which many people testified in support. 

 

The Connecticut Mirror covered the introduction of the bill and noted that in the last 3 months, fewer than 5% of tenants had appeared with counsel for eviction proceedings.  

 

UPDATE: Statewide right to counsel bill filed

 

Once again responding to the legislative task force recommendations, a bill has been filed, SB 531, that would provide a statewide right to counsel for tenants making $75,000 or less.

 

UPDATE: Connecticut DSA launches right to counsel petition drive

 

In January 2021, the Connecticut chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) launched a campaign calling on the Connecticut Legislature to provide a right to counsel for tenants facing eviction.

 

UPDATE: bill introduced to provide right to counsel in evictions


In 2019, a bill emerged from the Task Force's recommendations: SB 652 would guarantee a right to counsel statewide for tenants making less than $50,000 who are in an eviction proceeding.  An op-ed in the Harford Courant notes that Three cities in Connecticut are on the list of the top 50 eviction rates in the nation, and four are in the top 100.


Background


In 2016, Connecticut Senate Bill 426 created a new legislative task force to explore the right to counsel in civil cases.  After meeting several times over the course of the year, the Task Force issued its Final Report in December 2016.  Among other recommendations, the Report called for the state to 


Establish a statutory right to civil counsel in three crucial areas where the fiscal and social cost of likely injustice significantly outweighs the fiscal cost of civil counsel:
a. Restraining orders under General Statutes § 46b-15;
b. Child custody and detained removal (deportation) proceedings;
c. Defense of residential evictions.

 

The Report suggested the first step in implementation is "establishing a right to counsel pilot program for at least one or more of three areas of critical need: restraining order, family unity (child custody and detained removal

proceedings), and residential eviction cases. "  Connecticut News Junkie has more about the release of the Report.  The Task Force had the backing of many Connecticut leaders, including the Connecticut Bar Association President, the Chief Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court, the Senate President, and the dean of the University of Connecticut School of Law.  You can read more about the Task Force at Fox 61Hartford Courant, and Caifornia Courts Monitor, Also, you can check out the website of the Task Force.

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: no

 

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The NCCRC has provided technical support to the campaign and testified on HB 6531.