An income property. For many in Connecticut the American dream involves owning a home and with hard work one day purchasing an income property. The dream is to use that rental income to pay the mortgage, save for children’s education, and retire comfortably. While many tenants pay on time and in full occasionally they fall behind and have to be evicted. At Jacobs & Rozich we frequently represent these landlords as they strive to get tenants out and get their properties generating income instead of headaches. One of the most common reasons we are asked to evict tenants is for nonpayment of rent.
In Connecticut an eviction action is known as summary process. One of the biggest misconceptions about summary process is only about possession, not about money. A landlord cannot sue a tenant for past due rent during summary process. The only relief a landlord can receive is possession of the apartment. This misconception comes from the fact that generally when there is a breach of contract (and a lease is really just a contract) the law is supposed to “make parties whole” that means to place them in the position they would have been had the contract not been broken. Summary process is different because it does not seek to get the landlord the back rent but only possession of the apartment.
Another misconception of landlords is that if a tenant does not pay rent they can change the locks on them. This could not be further from the truth. If there is a valid tenancy in place it is a criminal offense, pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53a-214 et seq., to lock a tenant out because their right of possession has not been extinguished. Police take this seriously and I have seen landlords arrested for violating this statute.
If a landlord wants to collect back rent they have to bring a separate suit in the Superior Court Housing Session where they have to prove the amount of rent past due and have the court award them judgment. A note of caution in these cases is that, unsurprisingly, tenants who have been evicted have complaints about the condition of the apartment or the return of a security deposit and will file a counterclaim against the landlord.