RENTERS’ RIGHTS: As CT legislature debates rent caps, I-Team looks at other cities/town with similar rent control
(WFSB) - Tonight, the I-Team continues its weeklong investigation into your rights as a renter.
Rent has increased an average of 20% across the state in the last two years.
Some tenants say they can’t afford to stay in their homes.
They’re asking for a rent cap, joining states like California and Oregon, but do rent caps work?
Chief Investigative Reporter Sam Smink takes us to the states and cities that are currently finding out.
RENT CAPS IN CT:
“It’s a business, we get that, but be fair.”When Joel Lynch first moved into his Hamden apartment 3 years ago, the rent was $1,950.
The next year, $2100.
This year, he’s being asked to pay $2700.
”It’s just unfair to ask that amount, just at one lump sum and one fell swoop,” says Lynch.
Tenants across CT agree with Lynch.
They’ve started a campaign asking the legislature to pass a bill that would cap annual rent increases at 4% plus inflation. A public hearing debating the bill lasted for more than 8 hours Tuesday.
“Us speaking out, is us saying our voice is more valuable than what the market is saying,” says Lynch.
RENT CONTROL/CAPS IN AMERICA: CITY CAPS:
The I-Team wanted to know what other places across America have some form of rent caps or rent control.
In New England - that’s Portland, Maine, where two years ago, voters passed a rent control referendum.
”Every unit gets a base rent, whatever you were renting January 1, 2020, is what the base rent is,” says Jack O’Brien with Fair Rent Portland.
Jack O’Brien helped organize the campaign.
That base rent he mentioned, can never go up more than 10%, unless a landlord goes before the city.
“If there’s a tax revaluation, that can also be added on on a percentage basis. And if the landlord needs to make improvements to the landlord, they can also do that,” says O’Brien.
O’Brien says it’s working.
”I think that Portland has a much much lower rate of rent increase and tenant turnover than all of the surrounding communities, so that’s a huge win,” says O’Brien. “The communities nearby are often experiencing rent increases of 30-40% and Portland is at 7-10%. That’s huge.
”But right now, even when the tenants turn over, the maximum increase allowed is 5%.
Something Brit Vitalius of the Rental Housing Alliance of Southern Maine is trying to get changed with his own referendum.
”If those tenants leave on their own, there’s no reason why then the landlord should be able to go and charge market rent,” says Vitalius. “Many of the rents were well below market because that’s just how they go and they all got stuck there. In short, what it’s doing is limiting the ability to raise rents on all of the housing stock. It froze the market at a point in time in 2020 and the entire market just got stuck there.”
Vitalius says he thinks there should be something protecting tenants from crazy rent increases, but Portland’s rent control laws are too restrictive.
”We’re seeing some deliberation in neighboring towns about caps on the increases for existing tenants,” says Vitalius. “So for a family that’s been in a unit for 8 years, you can’t suddenly go up on their rent by 50%. They’re trying to put in more guardrails so that you can’t really disrupt existing tenants too much.”
In Minnesota, the city of Saint Paul’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance, initially approved by voters in November 2021, was amended by City Council in September 2022, after developers and investors began to pull out of projects.
The Ordinance limits residential rent increases to no more than 3% in a 12-month period, however, there are exceptions.
The Rent Stabilization Ordinance aims to address a shortage of affordable residential rental housing in the City of Saint Paul and ensure all residents have access to affordable housing.
State Senator James Manning Junior represents the state of Oregon, the first state to pass rent control.
“As a child growing up very poor, I experienced homelessness,” says Senator Manning. “If you have a stable home, that leads to other good outcomes.”
In 2019, lawmakers decided landlords cannot raise the rent more than 7% plus inflation annually.
Inflation is calculated using the Consumer Price Index.
For example, the increase in 2023 is 14%.
”Prevent those hedge funders that are really really going through and pricing people out of their homes,” says Manning.
Senator Manning said it took a lot of negotiation with landlords to come to that 7% plus CPI amount.
One downside? Landlords raised their rents immediately before the bill went into effect.
But the other downside Manning said landlords predicted, less construction, hasn’t happened.
”Nobody has left the state. The inventory is starting to increase,” says Manning.
Bob DeCosmo of the Connecticut Property Owners Alliance says there should be no cap here.
”When you start talking about property taxes going up, you know 70%. There’s no cap on the operating expenses, it’s going to drive capital out of the market,” says DeCosmo.
Joel Lynch and other tenants just don’t want to be priced out of their homes.
”Just be fair, that’s all we’re asking. Just be fair,” says Lynch.
RENTERS’ RIGHTS SERIES:
On Monday, the I-Team highlighted Fair Rent Commissions and how they work. To see if your city/town has one, click here:
On Tuesday, the I-Team talked about what you can do if you’re facing an eviction. Legal resources can be found here.
Copyright 2023 WFSB. All rights reserved.