[HISTORY: Adopted by the City Council of the City of West Haven 7-6-1982 by Ord. No. 186. Section 97-7 amended at time of adoption of Code; see Ch. 1, General Provisions, Art. I. Other amendments noted where applicable.]
Pursuant to Section 7-148b through 7-148f of the General Statutes of Connecticut, there is hereby created a Fair Rent Commission in the City of West Haven with full powers and authority as set forth in said statute.
The Mayor shall appoint a Fair Rent Commission, which shall be comprised of seven members and two alternates, who shall be electors of the City of West Haven for at least one year. The membership of said Commission shall include two landlords and two tenants. The alternates shall be either one landlord and one tenant or two electors who are neither landlords nor tenants. Of the members first appointed, four shall serve for terms of two years, and three shall serve for terms of one year. The alternates shall serve for terms of two years. Thereafter, members shall be appointed for terms of two years each to replace those whose terms expire. Of its regular membership of seven, there shall be no more than four members of the same political party. Vacancies shall be filled in the manner of original appointment for the unexpired portion of the term. Any member may be reappointed for an additional term in the manner of original appointment.
Members of the Commission shall elect a Chairman and a Secretary for a period of one year. The Commission shall have the power to adopt rules and regulations for the conduct of business within its jurisdiction and shall keep a record of all its proceedings. The Commission may, in its discretion, appoint an Executive Director.
The Commission shall have the power to make studies and investigations, conduct hearings and receive complaints relative to rental charges on housing accommodations, except those accommodations rented on a seasonal basis, within the City of West Haven in order to control or eliminate excessive rent charges on such accommodations and carry out the provisions of this chapter. The Commission, for such purposes, may compel the attendance of persons at hearings, issue subpoenas and administer oaths, issue orders and continue, review, amend, terminate or suspend any of its orders and decisions. [NOTE: For purposes of this subsection, "seasonal basis" means housing accommodations rented for a period or periods aggregating not more than 120 days in any one calendar year.]
The Commission may attempt, through the process of informal conciliation and negotiation between a complaining tenant and landlord, to arrive at a rental agreement which is mutually acceptable to said tenant and landlord before initiating the formal hearing process. No formal or informal hearing shall be held less than 10 days from the mailing date of a notice of such hearing to the landlord or an agent of such landlord, at which he may be represented by counsel.
The designated members of the Commission shall have the power to meet with the parties, if the parties consent, on an informal basis in a session closed to the public to attempt to reconcile the differences between the parties but shall receive no formal evidence nor make any decision thereon. Any agreement between the parties as a result of said informal conference must be in writing and fully enforceable by the Commission. The informal meeting shall be conducted by two members of the Commission appointed by the Chairman. The Commission members so assigned shall take no part at a formal hearing, if any, thereafter held on the case.
If the Commission determines, after a hearing, that rent charges for any housing accommodations are so excessive, based on the standards and criteria set forth in Subsection B of this section, as to be harsh and unconscionable, it may order a reduction in rent to such amount as it determines to be fair and equitable. If the Commission determines, after a hearing, that the housing accommodations in question fail to comply with any municipal ordinance or state statute or regulations relating to health and safety, it may order the suspension of further payment of rent by the tenant until such time as the landlord makes the necessary changes, repairs or installations so as to bring such housing accommodation into compliance with such ordinance, statute or regulation. The rent during said period shall be paid to the Commission to be held in escrow.
In making determinations as to whether a rental charge is excessive, the Commission shall give due consideration to the following:
Rent charged for the same number of rooms in other housing accommodations in the same and in other areas in the city.
The sanitary conditions existing in the housing accommodations in question.
The income of the tenant and the availability of other accommodations.
The services, furniture, furnishings and equipment supplied within said housing accommodations by the landlord.
The size and number of bedrooms and whole bathrooms contained therein.
Repairs necessary to make such accommodations reasonably livable for the occupants therein.
The amount of taxes and overhead expenses to the landlord.
Annual return and profits of the landlord's investments.
The availability of utilities.
Damages done to the premises by the tenant, caused by other than ordinary wear and tear.
Whether the accommodations are in compliance with the ordinances of the municipality and the Connecticut General Statutes relating to health and safety.
The Commission shall not have the power to make any rent reduction retroactive. Any rent reduction shall become effective on the next due date of the rent following the Commission decision.
Any person who violates any order of rent reduction or rent suspension by demanding, accepting or receiving an amount in excess thereof while such other remains in effect and no appeal pursuant to § 97-8 is pending or who violates any other provision of this chapter and Section 47a-20 of the Connecticut General Statutes or who refuses to obey any subpoena, order or decision of the Commission pursuant thereto may be fined not less than $25 nor more than $100 for each offense. If such offense continues for more than five days, it shall constitute a new offense for each day it continues to exist thereafter. The Superior Court shall have jurisdiction to hear and enforce all matters relating to violations under said sections.
Any person aggrieved by any order of the Commission may appeal to the Housing Court for the Judicial District of New Haven. As provided by the Connecticut General Statutes, such appeal shall be considered as a privileged matter with respect to the order of trial. Such appeal shall be limited to the question of whether the Commission acted arbitrarily, illegally or in abuse of its discretion. Unless otherwise directed by the Commission or the Court, the filing of an appeal shall not stay any order issued by the Commission.
No landlord shall maintain an action or proceeding against a tenant to recover possession of a dwelling unit, demand an increase in rent from the tenant or decrease the services to which the tenant has been entitled within six months after the tenant has in good faith filed a complaint with the West Haven Fair Rent Commission. The tenant shall continue to pay the amount of rent in effect of the claim of retaliatory action.
Any additions to the state law referring to Fair Rent Commissions will be automatically incorporated into this chapter.