Christine Stuart photo

Lawmakers and legal aid lawyers from New Haven and Hartford converged on the Capitol Thursday to support a bill that will protect renters from eviction if their home is in foreclosure.

“The automatic eviction policy is unfair to tenants who have done nothing wrong, and just want to stay in their homes,” New Haven Legal Assistance Attorney Amy Eppler-Epstein said.

Christine Stuart photo

Pointing to a Fair Haven property she said it’s easy to see what happens when tenants are evicted. She said a major bank foreclosed on the property in August of 2007 and none of the four families living in the property were offered a chance to remain. After the families left the home was broken into and stripped of its cooper pipes and aluminum siding causing its value to drip from $160,000 before the eviction to $16,000 just 17 months later.

Rep. Tim O’Brien, D-New Britain, who introduced the bill said he’s seen how the mortgage foreclosure crisis has increased blight in his city.

“It’s so very preventable,” he said.

He said if the government is bailing these banks out it’s the least they can do not to evict tenants in good standing.

Sen. Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said it doesn’t make sense for the banks to be evicting these tenants, especially when they’re providing a reliable stream of income. He said it’s not in the banks interest and it’s not in the neighborhood’s interest to empty these homes.

US Senator Chris Dodd, who attended the press conference Thursday, said he supported the state legislation. He said Congress has done all it can at the federal level by requiring Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to allow renters in good standing to continue living in the foreclosed property. He said now it’s up to the states to enact their own laws.

The state legislation is similar to the recent policy change made by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that allows renters current on their monthly payments to remain in their homes while the owner is in foreclosure.

Legal aid lawyers and advocates have written to the seven major banks that have brought the greatest number of evictions and asked for a moratorium. The seven banks have evicted more than 1,500 households over the past two years and 150 cases are currently pending in Connecticut courts, Eppler-Epstein said.