A mediation hearing is scheduled for next month in a Weed Street eviction proceeding that dates to late last year.
Tenants at 751 Weed St.—a 3.1-acre parcel owned by 751 Weed Street, LLC—began renting the property in August 2017 at $8,000 per month, according to court records. It includes a nine-bedroom, 9,946-square-foot home, tax records show.
The tenants’ lease terminated “because of lapse of time,” according to a complaint filed Dec. 15 in state Superior Court on the owner’s behalf by Stamford-based attorney Mark Sank of Mark Sank & Associates. They haven’t vacated the premises though notice to do so had been filed Nov. 8. According to a copy of the Notice To Quit that originally listed 10 defendants, the tenants also failed to pay rent.
Separate from the Housing Session filings, the property has been widely discussed in New Canaan since last month, when its owners filed an application to redevelop it with a 102-unit affordable housing complex.
In an answer filed Feb. 22 on behalf of two of the defendants (there are seven now), Trumbull-based attorney David Shufrin of Shufrin Law Group LLC, the tenants denied that they have no right to occupy the house.
The property owner had said from the start that the tenants could continue to rent the property “until such time as they were ready to demolish the Dwelling and begin redevelopment or until they abandoned redevelopment plans and sold the Premises,” Shufrin said in the answer.
In January 2021, the property owner “represented to the Defendants that it estimated that Plaintiff would not be ready to commence redevelopment for another two years and that Defendants would be able to continue renting in the meantime,” the answer said.
“On Christmas Eve 2020, the heat and hot water in the Premises stopped working,” it continued. “The Defendants informed the Plaintiff and requested that the Plaintiff repair the heat and hot water immediately. Rather than fix the issue immediately, the Plaintiff provided space heaters to the Defendants and told them to go to shower at the Stamford JCC if they wanted hot water.”
The plaintiff denied the accusation, and others (see below), in a reply to special defenses filed March 21.
According to the defendants’ special defenses, the dwelling then appeared to develop mold, and after the tenants obtained a third-party report “documenting the mold issues in the Premises,” the property’s owners were “suddenly no longer willing to honor its promise that the Defendants could lease the Premises until it was ready for redevelopment.”
“The Plaintiffs are not ready to commence redevelopment and are still in the process of obtaining the required local and/or state approvals for their redevelopment plan,” Shufrin said in the special defenses. “The Defendants relied on the Plaintiff’s promises in not making arrangements for alternative housing prior to the COVID19 pandemic and resulting housing shortage. Although the Defendants have made many attempts to locate alternative housing since March of 2021, those efforts were unsuccessful. The Defendants have five children who live with them, which limits their options to the larger homes that are generally difficult to find as rental properties, especially during the continued COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting housing shortage.”
(The plaintiff’s attorneys on Jan. 4 had filed an affidavit asserting that the house is “not a covered dwelling” under the federal CARES Act, court records show.”)
The tenants’ attorney said, “Although the Defendants thought they had located an alternative home, the owner of that home then backed out from what the Defendants perceived to be a binding agreement to lease that residence. Given the housing shortage, the Defendants even engaged in litigation before this Court over that agreement in an effort to secure alternative housing. Only very recently have the Defendants been able to locate alternative housing. As of the filing of this Answer and Special Defenses, the Defendants are under contract to purchase a home. The Defendants expect to vacate the Premises by May 15, 2022, after they close on the new home.”
According to the tenants’ attorney, the eviction is also retaliatory in nature and in violation of state law—an assertion also denied by the plaintiff.
A remote mediation hearing is scheduled for April 7, according to Connecticut Judicial Branch records.
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