May 6, 2014
by Meghan E. Smith
Bendett & McHugh, P.C. – USFN Member (Connecticut, Maine, Vermont)
The Connecticut Appellate Court recently issued a decision where it discussed the applicability of the federal Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act (PTFA) to Connecticut eviction laws. In the case of Customers Bank v. Boxer, 148 Conn. App. 479 (2014), the appellate court affirmed the judgment of the trial court, which found that the defendant had failed to meet his burden of proof to establish that he was a bona fide tenant under the PTFA, thereby triggering the 90-day notice required by that act. On appeal, it was determined that there was sufficient evidence to support the trial court’s conclusion that the defendant did not establish that the value of the repairs or improvements made to the property was commensurate with the fair market value rent of the property.
The PTFA does not define the term “receipt of rent,” so the appellate court turned to the Connecticut General Statutes for guidance. The court specifically stated that the “PTFA does not preempt state law with respect to the requirements of eviction proceedings.” The appellate court went on to cite federal cases that have stated that the PTFA “does not create a federal right of action, but indeed provides directives to the state courts” and “the PTFA is not a recognized area of complete preemption” (emphasis added). Therefore, Connecticut eviction statutes are not preempted by the PTFA.
This is important in regards to Connecticut General Statutes § 47-19. This statute provides in relevant part that a lease exceeding one year is not effectual against any persons other than the lessor and lessee unless it is in writing, executed, attested, acknowledged, and recorded in the same manner as a deed of land. Tenants in summary process actions where the landlord has been foreclosed often present leases ranging from two to four years in term that have not been attested, acknowledged, and recorded on the land records. Frequently they will obtain counsel who will try to argue that the PTFA “preempts” C.G.S. § 47-19 and the lease is enforceable against the new owner. This Connecticut Appellate Court decision will assist greatly in defending against those arguments.
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