|State Elderly Housing Laws|
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August 12, 1999
STATE ELDERLY HOUSING LAWS
By: Helga Niesz, Principal Analyst
You asked about state laws that let non-elderly handicapped people live in elderly housing. You want to know whether they can be removed or evicted if they violate the law or rules for elderly housing. You also asked (1) if someone with an alcohol problem must be in a program such as Alcoholics Anonymous to get an apartment and whether they can be evicted for drinking again, (2) what the law is on approved tenants letting unauthorized residents live in their apartment, and (3) what recourse other tenants have if the management does not enforce the rules. You want to know what the state has done recently to address these concerns.
You have additional questions concerning federal law, which we address in OLR Report 99-R-0807.
State law on state-assisted elderly housing permits non-elderly handicapped individuals to live in independent elderly housing, but it limits state-assisted “congregate” elderly housing to frail elderly (people over 62 who have difficulty with the activities of daily living). If the non-elderly handicapped violate the law, their lease, or the rules of the complex, they can generally be subject to the state's normal eviction procedures, depending on the lease provisions, the same as anyone else living there. However, federal and state fair housing laws require that they not be discriminated against on account of their disability. In addition, general landlord tenant laws give both the elderly and handicapped some additional protection against eviction.
State law does not specifically require that people with alcohol problems be in a program such as Alcoholics Anonymous to get an apartment in state-assisted elderly housing or that they be evicted if they resume drinking. But it does make current alcohol abuse a bar to moving into such housing if they also have a recent history of disruptive or dangerous behavior and their tenancy would threaten others' health and safety or result in substantial damage to others' property. The law also lets a local housing authority, in deciding eligibility for any public housing, consider whether an applicant abuses alcohol, if the authority reasonably believes it might interfere with others' health, safety, or peaceful enjoyment of the premises.
There is no specific state law or regulation on unauthorized residents. Local public housing authorities set their own rules on when someone is treated as a temporary guest or as a resident who should be put on the lease.
If management does not enforce the rules, other tenants should first turn to the complex's resident services coordinator, if there is one. Other options may be complaining to the housing authority or to DECD, or perhaps suing in court. For some types of federal fair housing violations, they can complain to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), even if they live in state-assisted housing.
Legislation in 1999 added the public housing authorities' discretion to consider alcohol abuse in their admission decisions for public housing. In 1998, the legislature tightened the law for illegal drug use or sales and, to a lesser degree, disruptions caused by alcohol use. It also funded hiring of residential services coordinators to, among other things, help mediate conflicts, and required development of a database on handicapped accessible and adaptable housing in the community. In 1997, the legislature tightened certain aspects of the state's general eviction laws, and made selling drugs on or near housing authority property grounds for eviction.
STATE LAW ON NON-ELDERLY IN STATE-ASSISTED ELDERLY HOUSING
The statute concerning state-subsidized elderly housing defines “elderly persons” as those “ 62 years of age and over who lack the amount of income which is necessary, as determined by the authority or nonprofit corporation subject to approval by the Commissioner of Economic and Community Development, to enable them to live in decent, safe and sanitary dwellings without financial assistance as provided in this part, or persons who have been certified by the Social Security Board as being totally disabled under the federal Social Security Act or certified by any other federal board or agency as being totally disabled” (CGS § 8-113a). This definition makes those who qualify as disabled under federal law equally eligible for elderly housing as people whose age is 62 and over.
State statute also requires housing authorities and other owners of state-subsidized elderly housing to submit verification annually that the significant facilities and services required under federal fair housing law (42 USCA § 3600) are being provided (CGS § 8-115).
But state-assisted elderly congregate housing is restricted to people who are at least 62 years old, with no provision for younger handicapped people (CGS § 8-119e).
ENTRY AND EVICTION PROVISIONS
Non-elderly handicapped residents of state-assisted elderly housing are generally subject to the same rules for admission and eviction as elderly people.
The state law specifically makes people ineligible to move into an elderly housing project if they (1) currently use illegal drugs, (2) currently abuse alcohol and have a recent history of disruptive or dangerous behavior so that their tenancy would constitute a direct threat to the health and safety of another individual or would result in substantial physical damage to another person's property, (3) are behaving in such threatening or damaging ways, or (4) have been convicted of selling or possessing illegal drugs in the past two years (CGS Sec. 8-116c (a)).
State law also specifically allows housing authorities and other entities operating state-assisted elderly and elderly congregate housing projects to evict occupants convicted of selling or possessing illegal drugs anywhere while residing in the project. The entities must comply with the state eviction statutes when evicting occupants for these reasons, and they can use the other remedies those statutes provide (CGS § 8-116c (b)).
General state laws concerning landlord and tenant responsibilities and breach of rental agreement may also apply to these situations (CGS §§ 47a-7 to 47a-14). But the elderly (over 62), blind, and physically disabled have some additional protections from eviction. They cannot be evicted except for good cause, that is, for one or more of the following reasons:
1. nonpayment of rent;
2. refusal to agree to a fair and equitable rent increase;
3. material noncompliance with tenants' statutory responsibilities concerning such things as the condition of the apartment, trash removal, and conducting themselves so as not to disturb their neighbors or be a nuisance (the noncompliance must materially affect other tenants' health and safety or the premises' physical condition);
4. voiding of the rental agreement because the tenant was convicted of using the premises for prostitution or illegal gambling, or material noncompliance with the rental agreement;
5. material noncompliance with the landlord's rules and regulations adopted under CGS § 47a-9; or
6. several other causes irrelevant to state-assisted elderly housing (CGS § 47a-23c).
OLR Report No. 99-R-0625 describes the eviction process in Connecticut and compares it to other states.
State law does not specifically require that people with alcohol problems be in a program such as Alcoholics Anonymous to get an apartment in state-assisted elderly housing or that they be evicted if they resume drinking. But it does make people ineligible to move into elderly housing if they currently abuse alcohol and have a recent history of the behaviors described above. Further, a housing authority can, when determining eligibility for any public housing, consider whether an applicant or proposed applicant abuses alcohol, if the authority reasonably believes such abuse might interfere with other residents' health, safety, or peaceful enjoyment of the premises.
Regarding unauthorized residents, Kathy Matthews of the Department of Economic Development (DECD) informed us that there is no specific state law or regulation on it and that the department leaves the question of when someone is treated as a temporary guest or as a resident who should be put on the lease up to the local public housing authority. According to Ms. Matthews, most authorities allow guests for up to two weeks, others set a limit of 30 days. If someone is permanently residing in an apartment in an elderly complex, they would generally have to meet the income limits and pay rent based on their income.
If management does not enforce its own rules, other tenants should first try to work with the complex's resident services coordinator, if there is one. They could also complain to the executive director of the housing authority, to its board of commissioners, or to DECD. Or they could perhaps initiate legal action under the general landlord tenant laws based on the landlord's failure to comply with the rental agreement or rules (CGS §§ 47a-12, 47a-14h). If they have complaints about discrimination and violations of federal fair housing laws, they can take them to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), even if they live in state-assisted housing.
RECENT STATE ACTIONS
PA 99-157, among other provisions, permits a housing authority, when determining eligibility for public housing, to consider whether an applicant or proposed applicant (1) abuses alcohol, if the authority reasonably believes it might interfere with other residents' health, safety, or peaceful enjoyment of the premises or (2) is required to be a lifetime sex offender registrant.
PA 98-114 allowed housing authorities and other entities operating state-assisted elderly and elderly congregate housing projects to evict occupants convicted of selling or possessing illegal drugs anywhere while residing in the project. It also barred anyone convicted of selling or possessing illegal drugs in the past two years from moving into these projects.
PA 98-263 first provided state funding for resident services coordinators in state-assisted elderly housing. One of the numerous functions these services coordinators are to perform is mediation and conflict resolution, which can be useful in situations where a resident, whether elderly or non-elderly handicapped, is disturbing others. It also required DECD, with the assistance of other agencies, to establish a database on handicapped accessible and adaptable housing.
PA 97-231, among other provisions, made the following changes in the general eviction laws:
1. reduced the notice to quit from five to three days;
2. made it a “serious nuisance,” and thus a ground for eviction, for tenants to sell drugs within 1,500 feet of any housing authority property in which they reside;
3. authorized a sheriff who executes an eviction from residential property to remove a tenant or occupant bound by a summary process judgment from the property; and
4. reduced, from 30 to 15 days, the earliest day for terminating a lease for noncompliance.