Connecticut Should Give Renters a Right to Counsel for Eviction Hearings

Connecticut Should Give Renters a Right to Counsel for Eviction Hearings

The Point

One-third of Connecticut’s residents are renters, leaving them vulnerable to eviction and its devastating consequences. Lawmakers can help renters remain in their homes by passing the statewide renters’ right-to-counsel bill.    

Connecticut should ensure renters have a right to counsel in eviction proceedings: 

  • The Connecticut General Assembly should pass House Bill 6531, which would establish a statewide right to counsel for renters in eviction proceedings. Currently, only 7 percent of Connecticut renters in eviction proceedings are represented by counsel, compared to 81 percent of landlords. Three of Connecticut’s largest cities are among the top 40 evicting large cities in the U.S. 
  • The overwhelmingly Democratic legislature should act to pass the measure in this legislative session, and Democratic Governor Ned Lamont should sign the bill. Lamont has already proposed that $20 million of federal relief funds be directed toward tenant representation, noting that “representation significantly increases tenants’ chances of staying in their homes.”
  • Connecticut’s elected officials should listen to their constituents. According to polling by Data for Progress and The Lab, two-thirds of Connecticut voters—81 percent of Democrats, 67 percent of independents, and 51 percent of Republicans—would support the creation of a statewide right to counsel for eviction hearings.

An eviction right to counsel would prevent a crisis from becoming a catastrophe:

  • Despite the existence of both federal and state eviction moratoriums, evictions are still being filed and people are still being removed from their homes. Once the moratoriums are lifted, both problems will only increase. Attorneys are critical to mitigating the devastating impact of this escalation. 
  • Tenants are better able to navigate complicated legal proceedings and exercise their rights with the help of an attorney. For example, a recent Appeal article describes the difficulty and uncertainty Connecticut renter Sabrina faced when she received an eviction notice. But, after speaking with an attorney at Legal Aid, Sarah was able to file a motion seeking protection from eviction under the federal moratorium.   
  • A right to counsel is a proven way to prevent evictions. In cities that have adopted a right to counsel for eviction proceedings, tenants are far more likely to avoid eviction and remain in their homes. In Cleveland, Ohio, for example, 93% of represented tenants were able to avoid eviction.   

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