New Tenant Protections Go into Effect in Connecticut, Including Limits to Late Charges and Application Fees

Lawmakers in Connecticut passed “Senate Bill 998,”  in June 2023 in an effort to address the state’s growing housing crisis by increasing access to, and improving the quality of, housing for the lowest-income and most marginalized renters. The omnibus housing bill, which was signed by Governor Ned Lamont in July, guarantees tenants several new rights, including protections from excessive application fees and late charges that went into effect on October 1.

Under the bill, landlords and property owners are prohibited from charging a tenant more than one late fee for delinquent rent. Allowable late fees, which will begin after a nine-day grace period for tenants with month-to-month lease agreements, cannot exceed $5 per day, with a maximum charge of $50, and cannot exceed 5% of the overdue rent. For tenants living in subsidized housing, the permissible late fee cannot exceed 5% of the tenant’s share of the rent. Renters bound by a weekly lease agreement will be given a four-day grace period before late fees begin accruing. The law also prohibits any landlord or property owner from charging a prospective tenant any payment or fee for processing a rental application. Instead, a landlord or property owner will only be permitted to charge prospective tenants certain fees, including the first month’s rent, a security deposit fee, and a fee for a key to the unit.

Since the start of 2023, lawmakers at both the federal and state levels have been working to enact stern measures to crack down on excessive application “junk” fees, with the Biden-Harris administration even making such a crack down one of their top priorities for addressing the rental affordability crisis nationwide. In July 2023, the White House released a brief detailing plans to eliminate such fees, which often come as a surprise to renters searching for housing. These burdensome fees can include payments for tenant screening reports, for example, which provide information on an individual’s income, rental history, credit history, and even criminal history.

A tenant screening report usually cannot be used more than once, meaning an individual must pay for a new tenant screening report with each rental application, which can add up to hundreds of dollars. Under Connecticut’s new law, fees for tenant screening reports are capped at $50.

The bill also seeks to improve the quality of rental housing, an issue that has been a top priority for tenant organizers and tenant unions across the state. Already in 2023, more than 10 unions have been established in Connecticut in cities such as New Haven, Hartford, and Hamden. One of the key housing justice organizations working to support tenant organizing is the Connecticut Fair Housing Center, a member of NLIHC’s End Rental Arrears to Stop Evictions (ERASE) Project cohort. Since 2022, the Connecticut Fair Housing Center has been working with tenant groups such as the Connecticut Tenants Union and the Wethersfield Avenue Tenant Union on issues related to habitability and code enforcement, with the focus being on improving tenants’ overall living conditions. (Irregular housing inspections in Connecticut often lead to unsafe living conditions for tenants, with instances of faulty smoke detectors, mold, and broken appliances being reported.)

“Senate Bill 998” sought to address housing quality concerns for tenants in two ways. First, the law allows for charges to be levied against a landlord or property owner who is found to have failed to maintain safe and sanitary housing. Second, the law allows a tenant to conduct a joint inspection, or “walk-through,” with their landlord prior to moving into the unit, and ask for any irregular conditions and damages to be noted. The new “walk-through” protection will go into effect in January 2024.

Finally, the enactment of “Senate Bill 998” makes Connecticut the eleventh state nationwide to enact eviction record sealing legislation, following in the footsteps of Rhode Island, which also enacted such protections for renters this year. The eviction record sealing protections included in the bill, which will go into effect in July 2024, will remove a tenant’s eviction record from public view and make it illegal for the record to be sold to any third-party company – including credit screening companies.

Eviction filings can result in lasting and sometimes permanent consequences for individuals, especially for members of low-income and marginalized renter groups. Even in cases where an eviction judgement does not result in displacement for a tenant, the mere presence of an eviction on a tenant’s public record, especially as it appears in their credit history, can prevent a tenant from securing safe, stable, accessible, and affordable housing long into the future. For members of low-income and marginalized renter groups in particular, the effects can be detrimental to aspects of life well beyond housing, impacting their ability to access reliable transportation, quality schools, and well-paying employment.

Under Connecticut’s new eviction record sealing law, an individual’s eviction record will be removed from the court system’s public view within 30 days for cases where an eviction is withdrawn by the landlord, if the tenant wins their case, or if the case is dismissed by the judge.

“We are very pleased that Connecticut has taken this first step in eviction records reform,” said Giovanna Shay, litigation and advocacy director with Hartford, Connecticut’s Greater Hartford Legal Aid. “After July 1, 2024, at least families who won their evictions, or got them dismissed or withdrawn, will no longer be penalized unfairly in tenant screening reports. Records of eviction filings are one of the major concerns for GHLA’s housing clients and one of their primary obstacles to safe and adequate housing. In Connecticut, African American/Black families face eviction three times more often than white families; Latino families face eviction two times more often than white families; and women are the majority of eviction defendants. The negative effects of eviction records further exacerbate the harm of this racial and gender disparity.”

Read more about the State of Connecticut’s housing omnibus bill here.

Learn more about NLIHC’s ERASE project at: