Greater Hartford Legal Aid and pro bono counsel from McCarter & English have filed a complaint in state Superior Court against a business arm of Goodwin College on behalf of East Hartford residents. The plaintiffs say the college reneged on a commitment to maintain low-income limits on all 80 units of the King Court complex, a residential development just north of campus.

The King Court Resident Association claims Goodwin College King Court LLC changed its policy toward rental rates at King Court, which it purchased from the East Hartford Housing Authority in 2013 to expand student housing. The association claims Goodwin reneged on a commitment to maintain low-income status for all 80 units in the complex, and instead made renovations to about 30 units for the purpose of renting at higher rates.

Residents are asking the court to compel Goodwin to honor its commitment to maintain low-income status for all units for a period of 40 years.

“The residents were blindsided in a sense,” said GHLA attorney Giovanna Shay, who is working the case with attorney David Pels. “Without notice, the landlord broke a number of contracts they entered into and obtained permission to remove 30 of the 80 units from the rental [restriction].”

Last April, Shay said, the ownership company overseen by Goodwin separated 30 units from an agreement covering all 80 on the property, noting that the 30 apartments had not been occupied at the time the new owners took over the property in 2014. “Three years later they said, ‘Oh, by the way, these 30 units were not occupied, so we should be able to remove them’ from the deal,” Shay contends.

Shay said residents of of the complex are upset that they did not have a say in the matter, despite a provision in the the original transfer of ownership from the East Hartford Housing Authority to Goodwin allowing resident participation in business matters.

“In late 2016, Goodwin College King Court, without notifying the resident association as required by the resident participation plan, approached DOH to request approval of an amendment of the restrictive covenants it had previously recorded on the land records, to remove 30 of the 80 units in King Court from the state moderate rental program,” the plaintiffs claim.

The amendment was approved without notice, the plaintiffs contend, which they say violates the original agreement.

Goodwin College King Court sent a written statement by email late Wednesday to the Connecticut Law Tribune in response to the residents’ complaint.

“While we are aware that a lawsuit was filed against Goodwin College King Court, LLC this morning, as a matter of course we do not comment on ongoing litigation,” the group wrote. “At Goodwin College King Court, LLC, we value our relationship with the King Court housing complex residents. More than tenants, they are our neighbors; Goodwin College King Court, LLC’s priority since acquiring the King Court project has been to provide the residents with safe, clean, affordable housing and continues to be our top priority. Goodwin College King Court, LLC’s commitment to maintain affordable housing units at King Court has not waivered as to guidelines of the State Moderate Rental Program, under the direction of the Connecticut Department of Housing.​

The plaintiffs’ action calls for Goodwin College King Court to draw up a new agreement, and “immediately cease and desist from taking any action designed to lease or rent any of the 80 units at King Court outside of the requirements of the state Moderate Rental Program.”

The complaint also seeks compensatory damages in excess of $15,000.