Housing Committee chair Sen. Marilyn Moore, left, and Joe Quinn, a lawyer with the senate Democrats, talk in the senate chamber on June 7, 2023. Moore explained the housing omnibus bill to the Senate ahead of the vote June 7. Yehyun Kim / CT Mirror

The highly contested housing omnibus bill passed by the legislature earlier this month includes new renters’ rights, some of which would go into effect later this year.

The wide-ranging bill, which is still awaiting Gov. Ned Lamont’s signature, included anti-discrimination rules, adjustments to application fees and security deposit processes, and removal of some online eviction case records.

Some of the measures initially included in Senate Bill 998 were among the most contentious of the legislative session. Democratic leaders were pushing to include land use reform that hinged on requirements that towns plan and zone for certain numbers of affordable housing units in order to increase the state’s housing stock.

But the mandates were stripped out of the bill as the session drew to a close, although requirements remained for the state to assess regional housing needs, establish a methodology to determine each town’s “fair share” of that need and figure out the number of units needed to meet the need in each town.

Leaders said the law as it stands is unlikely to meaningfully increase the state’s housing stock

Connecticut has a dire lack of affordable housing. Tens of thousands of residents are paying more than the recommended third of their income to housing costs.

But the new housing bill would have several new protections for renters in Connecticut.

Notably, the bill allows towns to increase fines on landlords whose properties break some municipal and housing code violations from $250 to $2,000. Lawmakers also passed a bonding package that is set to fund the Housing Receivership Fund, which allows the state to take control of and repair large apartment complexes with serious code violations.

Connecticut has seen a growing movement to unionize tenants so that they have more powerful bargaining tools to ask their landlords for things such as repairs or limits on rent increases. And this session, legislators heard from many renters during public hearings who testified about untenable housing costs and poor living conditions.

The bill aims to address many of these issues and would mean some changes to the ways landlords and tenants interact.

Some Republican legislators argued against any state-mandated changes to the landlord-tenant relationship, saying it puts the burden on landlords and that the government shouldn’t interfere in private contracts.

Here’s what you need to know about some of the new rights that could be coming for renters in Connecticut.

Online eviction records

The state’s Judicial Department will have to remove online records and identifying information from eviction cases that were withdrawn, dismissed or decided in favor of the tenant. The records must be removed within 30 days.

The Judicial Department also is banned from including the removed records in sales or transfers of case data. Some tenant screening companies have paid to receive eviction case data from the state in the past, and eviction records make it near-impossible for tenants to find new housing.

This portion of the law would go into effect July 1, 2024.

Housing discrimination

The bill bans small landlords — those who own four or fewer units — from housing discrimination based on sexual orientation. 

Previously, the law that banned housing discrimination against people in the LGBTQ community offered an exemption to people who are renting out one room in their house or to landlords who rent out housing in a building that’s up to four units, if the landlord lives in one of the units. The new law removes that exemption.

This portion of the law would go into effect Oct. 1.

Application fees

The bill prohibits many application fees for apartments other than security deposits, first month’s rent, key or special equipment deposit and the fee for the tenant screening report.

Landlords can only charge up to $50 plus any inflation costs for a tenant screening report and have to give potential renters a copy of the report. The state determines inflation costs. Landlords are also not allowed to charge move-in or move-out fees.

This part of the law would go into effect Oct. 1.

Late charges

The bill puts new limits on the amount landlords can charge in fees for overdue rent. Tenants get either a nine-day grace period — or four days for week-to-week renters — before fees start.

The fees have to be the least of these options: up to $5 per day, for a maximum of $50; 5% of the overdue rent; or 5% of the tenant’s share of the rent if they are in a nonprofit or government rent aid program such as the housing choice voucher program. Landlords also can’t charge more than one late fee for unpaid rent, no matter how long it’s overdue.

This portion of the law would go into effect Oct. 1.

Returned security deposits

The bill requires that landlords return tenants’ security deposits and interest on the deposits within 21 days rather than 30. Landlords who take longer to return the deposit are liable for double the original security deposit amount.

This portion of the law would go into effect Oct. 1.

Pre-occupancy walk-throughs

Landlords will be required to offer potential renters a walk-through of a rental unit as they enter a lease agreement. Both the landlord and tenant will walk through the apartment and note the conditions, including any repairs that need to be made or pre-existing damage.

The Department of Housing will develop a standard checklist for the walk-throughs. Landlords won’t be allowed to deduct money from the security deposit for any damage that’s noted in the checklist.

This part of the law would go into effect Jan. 1, 2024, and wouldn’t apply to leases entered before that date.

Notice of protected status

The bill offers protections against certain evictions and rent increases to a protected class that includes people over 62 and people with physical or intellectual disabilities, if they live in apartments with five or more units. This new law requires that landlords give tenants in the protected class a notice about their protected status.

The Department of Housing will post a one-page notice online in English and Spanish to ensure the protected class knows that they’re protected from evictions that are filed only because of a lease expiration and that any rent increases must be fair and equitable.

Landlords would have to give the state’s notice to tenants starting Jan. 1, 2024.

Ginny is CT Mirror's children's issues and housing reporter and a Report for America corps member. She covers a variety of topics ranging from child welfare to affordable housing and zoning. Ginny grew up in Arkansas and graduated from the University of Arkansas' Lemke School of Journalism in 2017. She began her career at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette where she covered housing, homelessness, and juvenile justice on the investigations team. Along the way Ginny was awarded a 2019 Data Fellowship through the Annenberg Center for Health Journalism at the University of Southern California. She moved to Connecticut in 2021.