Ed Lucas couldn't believe what he was hearing when he says his new landlord, Robert Udolf of Udolf Properties, called on August 31. Udolf told him the rent for his one-bedroom apartment on Park Road would increase from $500 a month to $850 a month effective September 1, said Lucas.
"I cut him off and said, 'Wait, September 1 is tomorrow.' He goes, 'Well you don't have to pay tomorrow. You can pay by the 10th' and I'm like 'That's a huge increase on a one-day notice,'" said Lucas.
Like other tenants in the building, Ed Lucas was not on a lease. His mother, June Lucas, lives in a two-bedroom apartment in the same building and was also paying $500 a month. Udolf planned to more than double her rent, to $1025 a month, again effective September 1, said Ed Lucas.
"I decided no, that's it. I'm not going to do that," said June Lucas. "I think this is terrible not to give you enough time, at least a month's notice, to let you know that the rent is going to be raised so that you can plan. Everybody's on a budget and this economy is so bad."
By phone, Robert Udolf disputed the tenants' claims. He says he warned everyone in the building rent would be going up, and says he was willing to wait until October 1 for the increase to take effect. His company is renovating the building, and he also pointed out the Lucas' rent was, and still is, below market value.
Because the tenants had no leases, the sharp increases and short notices are perfectly legal under Connecticut law, according to Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. However, Blumenthal says it's time for the legislature to consider changing the law to provide more rights for tenants who have no leases. "People were depending in their planning on what they were paying at the time and particularly in tough economic times, tenants, working families, deserve more notice," said Blumenthal.
"I just think this is pretty cruel," said Ed Lucas.
"I've never heard of something like this before," said June Lucas.
Ed and June Lucas have decided to move in together and found a three-bedroom apartment in West Hartford. They're now unpacking, hoping to put this experience behind them.