Chung v. Belton
A court can award attorneys' fees in an entry-and-detainer action, pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes §§47a-18a and 42-110g. Previously, a housing court found the following facts. In July 2011, the defendant landlords believed that a bedbug infestation originated from the apartment of the plaintiff tenant, Denise Chung, and served a notice to quit possession. The landlord did not file a civil summary-process complaint, to lawfully evict. In September, Chung was about one week behind on her rent and owed about $130. On October 2 and 5, the landlords' brother allegedly entered without consent and demanded that Chung vacate. On October 8, the landlords' agents allegedly entered and removed Chung's belongings, which included a mini-computer that was running, without permission. Chung called the police. The police credited the landlords' brother, who allegedly claimed Chung had been lawfully evicted. Chung slept at the Hartford train station, where she allegedly was the victim of an attempted sexual assault, and at homeless shelters. The court found that the landlords authorized a forcible entry, in violation of C.G.S. §47a-43(a), and engaged in unfair and deceptive trade practices, in violation of C.G.S. §42-110b. The court awarded economic damages of $18,516 for loss of property and wages and doubled the damages, pursuant to C.G.S. §47a-46. The court also awarded $1,590 for unauthorized, forcible entries and $5,000 in punitive damages, pursuant to C.G.S. §42-110g(a), for a total award in the amount of $43,622. C.G.S. §47a-18a provides, "If the landlord makes an entry prohibited by section 47a-16 or 47a-16a, or makes repeated demands for entry otherwise lawful but which have the effect of unreasonably harassing the tenant, the tenant may recover . . . reasonable attorney's fees." C.G.S. §42-110g(d) provides, "In any action brought by a person under this section, the court may award, to the plaintiff . . . reasonable attorneys' fees based on the work reasonably performed." Ruling on attorneys' fees, the court approved $200 per hour to Chung's attorney, Cecil Thomas of Greater Hartford Legal Aid, and 74 hours of legal work. The court awarded attorneys' fees in the amount of $14,800 and costs of $874.