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March 8, 2024

Sale of CT apartment complex tests state’s no-fault eviction law

SHAHRZAD RASEKH / CT MIRROR NormaJean Nilo, Sharie Potter, Susan Love, and Terry Nilo converse while entering one of the buildings that makes up Brookside.

Every time Terry Nilo comes home from work, he peers out of his truck window at the front door of his apartment, trying to catch a glimpse of any paperwork from the courts that might be waiting for him.

“I used to come home before Norma from work, and every day —” he said, his voice trailing off as he glanced at the open door.

“Every day you check it for that note,” his wife, NormaJean Nilo said, finishing his sentence. Terry nodded.

“First thing I do when I get home is I open up the screen door to see if there’s a notice to quit,” Terry Nilo said, using the formal term for an eviction notice. “It’s getting pretty stressful when you just don’t know.”

The Nilos are among the longtime residents of the Brookside Apartments in Woodstock who are in fear of losing their housing now that a new owner has taken over the 14-unit apartment complex. Over the years, the tenants have formed a tight-knit community. UpRealty, a New York-based real estate investment and management company, bought the apartments in 2022 for $1.35 million, property records show.

The company has started renovations on units as residents move out. Last year, they told a number of tenants to move out. Many who remained were then told that they needed to leave by the end of February, although no formal legal process had been initiated.

Current tenants say they fear the company is trying to get everyone out so they can raise rents on vacated and renovated units.

The Nilos, like most of the residents at Brookside, are protected by Connecticut state law against lapse-of-time evictions, or evictions that occur when a lease runs out. Current law protects people 62 and older and people with disabilities from evictions of this type.

The circumstances for the tenants in Woodstock is a case study in how this law works — and its gaps. Almost all of the residents are protected under the law. Some are fighting to stay under the protections.

Those who aren’t covered are planning expensive moves, and others who might have been covered moved out for fear of getting an eviction filing on their record, which can make housing hard to find.

Democrats and tenants’ rights advocates are supporting a bill this session that would ban lapse-of-time evictions for renters in apartment buildings with five or more units. The bill has been proposed in past years, and this session it’s a priority for the Senate Democratic caucus.

Landlords and some Republicans on the Housing Committee have spoken against the proposal.

Senate Bill 143, which passed through the Housing Committee last week despite stiff Republican opposition, is one of the biggest proposals that would alter the landlord-tenant relationship under debate this session. But with the increased presence of tenant unions in the state, the political winds have shifted.

Daysha James, a regional property manager with UpRealty, said the company didn’t know that the tenants were protected when they started the process of asking them to leave.

“Once we acquire a property, obviously depending on the state of the property, the conditions of it, we typically come in, we like to rehab, renovate and so on and so forth,” James said. “Not always do we get a lot of information from the people that we are purchasing it from. … In this case, we were given leases, no application information, no dates of birth, really nothing.”

They’re working to gather information that would determine who is in a protected class, James said, but if they don’t hear back, they typically file evictions.

Residents said they haven’t heard much from the company outside of the notices informing them that they have to leave. They’re working with an attorney to ensure they’re not forced out of their homes.

No-fault evictions

Under Connecticut law, most renters can face eviction when their leases end, even if they’re caught up on rent and haven’t broken the lease terms. S.B. 143 would ban these types of evictions in most cases. 

Landlords would have to provide a reason when they evict someone.

Tenants have said that there are several scenarios in which a lapse-of-time eviction is unfair. They’re often used when tenants organize or complain about housing conditions, tenants say. In those instances, landlords will keep tenants on month-to-month leases so they can be evicted more quickly.

They’ve also been used when landlords want to raise rents, tenant organizers say.

Chinye Ijeli, a health advocate for the Connecticut Tenants Union and a Yale medical student, said at a public hearing that evictions are tied to negative health outcomes including more depression, anxiety, heart attacks and high blood pressure.

“If the Connecticut General Assembly expands eviction protections, more Connecticut residents will have the security to ask for housing repairs that they are legally entitled to,” Ijeli said in written testimony. “If not, landlords will continue to get away with breaking housing codes because their tenants are vulnerable. The patients I see in clinic for rashes and infections from bug bites and rodent bites they got in their sleep are vulnerable.”

But landlords have said lapse-of-time eviction is a tool they use to get rid of tenants who are causing problems for the community.

Lapse of time is “the most graceful way that you can part with a tenant without great big fights,” said John Souza, president of the Connecticut Coalition of Property Owners, in an interview.

“I’m not married to these people, they’re not married to me,” Souza said.

“At a time when Connecticut renters need more new and refurbished apartments, the Housing Committee just dealt a major blow to our ability to support and sustain safe and well-maintained housing,” Kelly DeMatteo, president of the Connecticut Apartment Association, said in a statement. “Lapse-of-time lease non-renewals are rare — and they are used to keep residents safe or when an owner needs to renovate and upgrade a building.”

Lapse-of-time evictions make up about 11% of evictions in Connecticut, more than 2,000 evictions annually. Evictions have been shown to have long-term negative effects on tenants’ well-being. Organizers also say they’re often used to evict people who complain about conditions or try to form tenant unions.

The Senate bill has garnered support from Democrats in both the House and Senate. Republicans have said they’re opposed and fear it’s a violation of property rights or will discourage landlords from offering housing.


Many of the residents in the Woodstock apartments have lived there for years. Nearly all of them are senior citizens or have a disability, said Sharie Potter, a resident at the complex. She grew up just down the road and has lived in the complex for almost two decades, since she was in college.

Her apartment has exposed wooden beams, original from when the structure was built in the 1800s. Travel trinkets and books line her shelves, and her cats weave their way through a maze of cardboard boxes and scratching posts.

Potter packed up several boxes when she first thought they’d have to move — soon after the company bought the building.

“I don’t need luxury,” Potter said. “I need something that I can afford.”

She and the other tenants have weathered many stages of life together. They’ve seen each others’ kids grow up, they planted a garden together on the grounds and on summer evenings, they’ll often gather for a glass of wine.

“We all like it here,” said Susan Love, another resident. “I mean, we take care of each other.”

Love said she’s asked neighbors to run errands for her when she’s not feeling well. Her home is set up for her artwork — looms, sewing machines and yarn fill the place. Crocheted flowers dotted with string lights wind their way up the wall.

The property is nestled between a brook and a horse pasture. It’s pastoral and quiet with nice views, tenants say.

James, of UpRealty, said the process in Woodstock is how the company typically operates. It purchases properties, often renovates, then files notices to quit for lapse of time as leases come up so it can more easily complete the renovations. The firm owns properties in several Connecticut cities including in Bloomfield and Middletown. 

Residents in those properties have also complained about housing conditions and forced move-outs.

“A lot of these residents have been there for years, and I can totally understand where they’re coming from,” James said. “I totally get it, but if we have no information, that’s the process. But like I said, once we are able to be in contact with all the residents, and lots of times once these notices go out, we work with them.”

If they find that residents are protected, then they work to figure out a solution. If the property is being renovated, as the property in Woodstock is, they may try to offer them a unit in another building they own, sometimes in another town.

“We’re by no means trying to make people homeless or anything,” James added. She said they like to beautify properties, which gets good feedback from people in town, which brings up the property value.

Matthew Lagasse, who lived at the complex for the last six years, said he and his roommate recently moved out. They didn’t fall under the existing protections and wanted to avoid an eviction on their records, so they left to comply with the letters UpRealty sent.

The high rental costs will mean he can’t put money into savings anymore, he said. Rents have risen in Connecticut over the past couple of years, a trend housing experts have said is largely driven by a lack of supply.

“The main issue is just that everything is skyrocketing in price,” Lagasse said. “So minimum, we’re doubling our rent, because we’re being forced to move.”

He has a good job building lasers and laser parts, he said, but “it doesn’t matter, because everything’s so expensive,” he said.

“If I want to buy a house going forward, not even considering the extensive increase in prices that property has gone through in the past couple of years, I have no way to save,” he said. “If I have any kind of big medical bills or anything like that, there’s no way to really recover from those because you can’t save any money.”

After renovations, James said the company raises rents but that it bases it on the real estate market and fair market rents.

“Many, many, many of them are way below market value,” James said. “It’s also because the previous owners, they just kind of maintained it before they were ready to sell and didn’t really do any renovations and things were in disrepair.”

A two-bedroom unit at the apartment was listed online in late February for $1,750 per month. Tenants interviewed said they pay between $700 and $900 each month. Electric bills are high — as much as $500 per month — so the previous landlord kept the rent low to compensate.

In some instances, paying $1,750 per month would almost double rents.

“They have no sense of what this is,” NormaJean Nilo said. “They just bought it to rehab it, turn it into luxury apartments and then double the rents. I couldn’t even afford to meet the criteria [to apply]. I just retired.”

She said they’re asking that people earn three times the monthly rent in order to qualify for the apartments, which isn’t an unusual ask from a landlord. The issue, she said, is that by raising rents this much, many will be forced out.

The residents are working with an attorney and are in a waiting period to see what happens next. They’re hopeful the law will continue to protect them. And they want to show people that they’re invested in staying in their community.

“We’ve been here a long time,” Potter said. “This is our home. This is our town. My family actually helped settle this town. That’s how long I’ve been in this town. I think that a lot of people have different ideas about what they think renters are or who they think renters are, and we want to show them that that’s not always the case.”

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