Here are some tips that can help you stay in your apartment:
- Always get a receipt for rent paid with cash or money order. Keep all your receipts and cancelled checks.
- Pay your rent by the 10th day of the month (or by the 5th day if you pay week to week).
- Never stop paying rent, even if there are problems with your apartment or you are angry with your landlord.
- Never ignore or tear up legal papers.
Read this booklet to find out more about:
- Can my landlord lock me out?
- What can I do if I get locked out?
- What if my landlord thinks I moved out?
- Can my landlord evict me?
- Get ready for your trial!
- What to do if you get evicted and lose your belongings?
- Can I ask for more time to move?
No! It is against the law for your landlord to:
- Change the locks on your home,
- Keep your belongings, or
- Do anything else to keep you out of your home.
Exception: Your landlord can lock you out if you have another apartment where you usually live.
What if I get locked out of my hotel/motel room?
It is against the law for the hotel/motel manager lock you out of your room if:
- The hotel/motel is your home,
- You have been at the hotel/motel for at least 30 days, and it has become your home, or
- You have been there for 90 days or more (even if you have another home).
Call the police right away. A lockout is a crime. Show the police proof that it's your apartment, like a rent receipt, cancelled rent check, or a utility bill with your name and address on it.
You have the right to have the police call your landlord and order him to let you back into your apartment. If the landlord refuses, you can ask the police to arrest your landlord.
Can I “break in” to my apartment?
Call the police first. Let them talk to your landlord. If the police can’t find your landlord or your landlord won’t let you back in, tell the police you are going in on your own. Try not to break anything unless there is no other way to get back in.
Caution! If you expect trouble from your landlord, ask the police to be there when you go back in. They should not arrest you unless you break more things than you had to or you fight with the landlord. And they should stop your landlord from getting in your way.
What if I can’t get back into my apartment?
You can sue your landlord for an illegal lockout. If you win, the court can make your landlord:
- Let you back into your apartment.
- Return your belongings.
- Pay you one month’s rent (for going into your apartment without your permission).
- Pay you for damaged or missing property or expenses you had because of the lockout (lawyer’s fees, meals, hotel, etc.).
How do I sue my landlord for illegal lockout?
- Talk to a lawyer. Call Statewide Legal Services at 1-800-453-3320.
- Read below.
- If your property was damaged or lost or if you had expenses because of the lockout, you can also sue your landlord for up to $5000 in Small Claims Court. You do not need a lawyer in Small Claims Court. The clerk will help you fill out the court forms. For more information, see Common Questions about Small Claims Court.
To sue your landlord for illegal lockout, follow these steps:
1. Fill out and file these forms in Housing Court. (The clerks can give you the forms and help you fill them out. Or you can get the forms at www.jud.ct.gov/webforms.
- Verified Lockout Complaint and Application for Temporary Injunction (JD-HM-24)
- Summons and Order to Show Cause (JD-HM-23)
- Sign them in front of the court clerk, a notary, or a lawyer.
- File them with the Housing Court clerk.*
- Ask a marshal to serve the papers to your landlord. The clerk can give you a list of marshals.
- Go to court on your hearing date and tell the judge what happened.
* If you don’t have enough money to pay the filing fee or the marshal’s fee, ask the clerk for an Application for Waiver of Fees and Financial Affidavit. See our articles about Fee Waivers and Financial Affidavits.
3. The clerk will give your forms to the judge. The judge will decide:
- If the court will accept your case.
- The date you and your landlord must go to court .
- If your landlord has to let you back into your apartment right away.
Your landlord cannot change the locks just because he thinks you moved out.The landlord must be sure you have moved out. For example, you:
- Returned the key,
- Moved all or most of your things and it looks like you are not returning, or
- Told your landlord you were going to move and you did.
If the landlord is not sure you have moved out, he cannot change the locks. But he can ask the court to evict you.
What if my landlord wants to evict me?
Your landlord can try to evict you. But there must be a judgment first. Unless your landlord wins at court, he must not take your things or evict you – even if you owe back rent.
Yes, but he must get the courts permission first. Unless the court agrees with the eviction, your landlord must not:
- Lock you out of your home,
- Shut off your heat or lights, or
- Make you leave before the court decides your case.
If you do not want to leave, see below to learn how you can try to stop the eviction.
How do I know if my landlord wants to evict me?
If your landlord wants to evict you, you may get a Kapa Notice or a Notice to Quit.
AKapa Notice is an informal warning letter that:
- Explains what you did wrong, and
- Tells you to stop or to pay for damages caused within 15 days. If the problem is not solved within 15 days, your landlord may send you a Notice to Quit.
A Notice to Quit is a court form that asks you to leave by a certain date because:
- You did not pay your rent,
- Your landlord did not agree that you could live there,
- You broke your lease or the law, for example you sold drugs there or damaged the apartment, or
- Your landlord wants to end your month-to-month lease or your lease has ended. (Your landlord must not make you leave if your lease has not ended.)
Important! You do not have to leave on the date listed on the Notice.
The Notice to Quit looks like this.
What should I do if I get a Kapa Notice or Notice to Quit?
- Talk to your landlord to try to solve the problem, or
- Talk to a lawyer. Call Statewide Legal Services at 1-800-453-3320.
Note: If a housing authority wants to evict you, send a letter to the manager or director. Ask them for a hearing. Keep a copy of the letter.
What happens if I cannot work things out with my landlord?
If the problem is not solved and you do not leave, your landlord may ask the court to evict you. If this happens, a marshal will give you a Summonsand a Complaint.
If you get a Summons and Complaint, call Statewide Legal Services at 1-800-453-3320.
If you do not want a lawyer to help you, but do not want to be evicted, you must:
2. Make 2 copies of your completed forms.
3. Take the originals to the Court Clerk within 2 business days of the “return date” on the Summons.
4. Give (or mail) a copy to your landlord or the landlord’s lawyer.
5. If you have questions or need help, call Statewide Legal Services: 1-800-453-3320.
Warning! If you do not fill your forms out completely, correctly, and on time, you may lose your case.
Where do I get the court forms I need?
The forms are free, and you do not have to pay to file your completed forms at court. You can get the forms at:
- http://www.jud.ct.gov/webforms, or
- The Court Clerk’s office or Court Services Center (the address is listed on the Summons).
What happens after I give my forms to the court?
The court will mail you a letter that says the time and date of your trial. If you do not go to court for your trial, your landlord will probably win and you will be evicted. If this happens, a marshal can make you move out with as little as 24 hours notice.
Can I ask the court for another trial date?
If you have a very good reason why you need a different court date, you must ask for a continuance at least 3 days before your court date. To do that, fill out and file a Motion for Continuance (JD-CV-21).
If you missed your court date, but have a very good reason, like being in the hospital, you have 5 days to ask the court to open your case again. To do that, fill out and file a Motion to Open.(JD-CV-51).
Ask the Court Service Center for help.
You will have a better chance of winning your case if you do these things:
- Get a lawyer to speak for you in court. Call Statewide Legal Services at 1-800-453-3320.
- Organize and make copies of all the papers you need to prove your story (rent receipts, letters, lease, etc.)
- If you have witnesses, ask them to go to court to say what they know about your case.
- Get a babysitter if you can. Try to take the day off from work. You may be in court for 2-5 hours.
- Get there early.
- Turn your cell phone off.
- Have your papers and witnesses ready.
- Be polite to everyone and follow all instructions.
- Stand up when you speak to the judge, and call the judge “Your Honor.”
- Do not chew gum, use earphones, or read in the courtroom.
- Wear business clothes, such as slacks and a nice shirt or a dress. Do not wear sandals.
Will my trial start right away?
You and your landlord will speak to a Housing Specialist first. The Housing Specialist will try to help you make an agreement (also called stipulation), instead of having a trial. If you can make an agreement, you, the landlord, and the judge will sign it. You will each get a signed copy of the agreement.
You can also make an agreement on your own with the landlord. But talk to the Housing Specialist before you sign it.
Warning! Do not sign an agreement if you cannot do what it says. If you disobey the agreement, you can be evicted very quickly.
What if the landlord and I cannot make an agreement?
You will have a trial and a judge will decide your case. Your trial will probably take an hour, and will be like this:
- The judge will call your case. The landlord will speak first. He will explain why you should be evicted. He may show the judge papers or other evidence.
- The judge will ask you to tell your side of the case. You must explain why you should not be evicted. You can also show the judge papers, photos, and other evidence.
- The judge may ask you, the landlord, or any witness questions. You can also ask questions, when it’s your turn.
- The judge will decide. And the court will mail its decision (called Order or Judgment) to you and the landlord.
What happens if I win?
If you win, you get “possession.” That means you can stay in your apartment.
What happens if I lose?
If you lose your case, you will have to move out. Your landlord will get permission from the court to hire a marshal. A marshal must tell you at least 24 hours before he comes to remove you and your possessions from the apartment.
Warning! You can be evicted even if you have small children, a subsidy, or it is the middle of the winter. Pack your things as fast as you can before the marshal comes back. Start with your medications and important legal documents, like birth certificates and ID cards.
If you do not move out before the marshal comes, the marshal will take all your belongings from the apartment, even if you are not there. And the landlord can lock you out.
- Call 211. Ask about programs that can help you find a place to live.
- Get your belongings back from your town if you ask for them within 15 days. (They will charge you moving and storing costs. But you can ask them to reduce or eliminate these costs.) After 15 days, the town will sell your things at a public auction. You can try to buy them back at auction, if you want to. This may cost less then paying for moving and storage costs.
- If you get welfare, contact your DSS worker right away. DSS sometimes helps with housing and moving costs. Or they may pay for the security deposit for your next apartment.
You will automatically get 5 extra days to move out if you are evicted because:
- You broke the law or the rules in your lease, or
- Your landlord did not agree that you could live there.
You can also ask your landlord for more time, but he does not have to give it to you.
You can get 3 extra months to move out if you are evicted because you did not pay the rent. But you must fill out a Stay of Execution (JD-HM-21) form, and pay the court all the rent you owe within 5 days of the judgment. And be prepared to pay for each month you stay.
If you are evicted for a reason not listed above, you may ask the court if you can stay up to 6 months. Fill out a Stay of Execution (JD-HM-21), but the court does not have to let you stay at your apartment. So think about your other options in case the court says no.
If you are a senior or have physical or mental disabilities and live in a building with 5 or more units, a special law, called “good cause,” protects you from eviction. Get legal help right away so you can tell the court you are protected by “good cause.” (See below to learn more about good cause.)
Who qualifies for good cause?
To qualify for good cause, you must:
- live in a rental unit that has at least 5 units in all, and
- have a physical or mental disability or be a senior (62 or older).
Does the law protect anyone else from eviction?
Yes. It also protects people:
- Who own their mobile home and live in a mobile home park
- Whose landlord wants to convert their apartment to a condominium
- Who are seniors or have a physical or mental disability and a bank is trying to evict them because of a foreclosure case against the landlord
Does any disability qualify?
No. The disability must be physical or mental. And it must be expected to last at least 12 months.
Does everyone in my home have to be a senior?
No. You qualify if your spouse, brother, sister, parent, or grandparent lives with you and is 62 or older.
Important! You may have to prove your disability or age. You can use a medical report or proof of Social Security income.
If I qualify for good cause, does that mean my landlord can never evict me?
No. Your landlord can still evict you if you do not:
- Pay the rent.
- Agree to a “fair and equitable” rent increase.
- Keep your unit clean and safe.
- Follow your lease, your landlord’s rules for the building, and state law.
How do I know if a rent increase is “fair and equitable”?
Some towns have a Fair Rent Commission that can decide if the increase is fair. You can search the Internet or the government pages of your town’s phonebook to see if there is a Commission in your town.
Statewide Legal Services: 860-344-0380 (Central CT & Middletown) or 1-800-453-3320 (all other regions).
For people over 60, click here to get help from legal aid.
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