BRIDGEPORT, CT — Eight property owners filed a federal lawsuit against Gov. Ned Lamont for his executive order that allows tenants to delay paying their rent and protects them from eviction during the coronavirus pandemic.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday by state Reps. Cara Pavalock-D’Amato, Craig Fishbein, and Doug Dubitsky says Lamont’s executive order “illegally restricted the rights of the Plaintiffs as landlords, and property owners.”
The three conservative lawmakers say their clients “have no adequate remedy at law as no damages could compensate the Plaintiffs for the deprivation of their constitutional rights.”
The landlords are asking for compensatory and punitive damages and a declaration that allows them to begin eviction procedures against tenants, as well as a declaration that the executive order violated their due process rights. They said without injunctive relief from the court, the property owners and landlords “will suffer ongoing irreparable harm.”
The April 10 executive order the landlords are challenging in court also allows a tenant who has a security deposit of more than one month’s rent to apply part of the excess to April, May or June rent. The lawsuit says that at least three of the eight plaintiffs hold two months of rent as a security deposit and have been “forced to relinquish a portion of their legally retained security deposit.”
Other property owners said they were unable to serve eviction notices on tenants who were not current on their rent before the pandemic began because they are “prohibited from initiating summary process eviction.”
Under the executive order tenants must notify their landlord that they have lost a job or lost hours due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lamont’s executive order gave tenants a 60-day grace period to pay their April and May rent. It also restricted landlords from filing eviction notices in court until July 1.
Lamont extended rent relief to tenants on April 10 after banks offered mortgage relief to homeowners and businesses.
Attorney General William Tong said he would defend the governor in court.
“Our state constitution and state laws grant the Governor broad authority to protect Connecticut residents and families in a public health emergency, and his executive orders have been very clearly constitutional and fully legally justified,” Tong said.
Lamont felt strongly when he issued the executive order.
“Doing something for the renters was really important to me,” Lamont said in April when he signed the executive order. “They’re the ones who are just as likely to have lost all sources of income. … It at least gives people a 90-day break and a breather until we get this economy going again, or least until we get those other supports going from the federal government.”
Paul Mounds, Lamont’s chief of staff, has said that other executive orders provided assistance to landlords and property owners “dealing with their own financial situation.”
In late March, Lamont announced that certain financial institutions were offering a 90-day grace period for all mortgage payments. That grace period expires on July 1. Property owners were quick to point out that not every landlord or property owner has a mortgage and may not be receiving any relief.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, an estimated 143,000 Connecticut residents don’t believe they can make rent next month. In May an estimated 22% of renters missed their payments.