Letter to: McKinney
The fair rent commission can possess jurisdiction over tenants' complaints that an addendum to their lease requires that they pay the landlord a monthly fee for insurance. Senator John McKinney and Representative Linda Orange asked Attorney General George Jepsen about the fair rent commission's jurisdiction, after tenants complained that a landlord charged them a monthly fee for insurance, pursuant to an addendum to their lease. Connecticut General Statutes §7-148b provides that the fair rent commission possesses authority to "make studies and investigations, conduct hearings and receive complaints relative to rental charges on housing accommodations . . . in order to control and eliminate excessive rental charges." The legislature has not defined the term "rental charges" in §7-148b. The dictionary definition of "rental charge" is the cost of rent, or consideration paid for use or occupancy. Attorney General Jepsen opined that "`rental charges' that a municipal fair rent commission is currently authorized to review include not only charges labeled as `rent,' but also fees that the rental agreement requires the tenant to pay the landlord for the use or occupancy of the property." Consequently, if the lease includes an addendum that requires the tenant to pay a monthly insurance fee, that fee is part of the consideration that the tenant pays for use and occupancy, and it qualifies as a "rental charge," for purposes of §7-148b. Attorney General Jepsen concluded that the term "rental charges" should be construed to include all periodic payments to a landlord under a rental agreement for use or occupancy.