Letter from the Executive Director for May 2024: Eviction Sealing Referendum?

In April, I got bad news about eviction sealing in the HOMES Act (193 H.4356) and the Housing Bond Bill (193 H.4138). Either of these bills could make it very hard to screen recently evicted renters. Eviction sealing hasn't passed yet, but we seem to be sleepwalking towards the idea. For this letter I’ll reference my recent vacancy as a case study of what will happen. At the end, I ask whether you are prepared for a referendum to overturn this law should it pass. If not, we need volunteers now.

In effect, the Bond Bill is set to enact accessory dwelling units in single family-zoned areas while increasing the likelihood that the new ADU renters were just evicted from elsewhere. Also, the bond bill will set the commonwealth back another $4 billion. And we landlords will be stuck renting to professional tenants. Is this what people want? I know it's not what housing providers want.

I recently listed a three-bedroom apartment in above-average condition for average rent. According to Apartments.com and Zillow.com, I received inquiries from 197 applicants. I spoke with and generated phone screening prompt sheets for 102 of these in either English or Spanish. I rejected 44. Another 45 self-selected away from me. One of the biggest issues has been that I live in the building and enforce the rules like quiet hours and no-smoking. One applicant told me they were not okay with quiet hours: "I don't want to feel constrained." Another applicant asked if I meant "no smoking" "as in tobacco or weed?" My quiet neighbors and non-smoking residents can thank me later.

Six applications passed my phone screen only to be rejected on background check. Three of these were for evictions that would have been sealed under the housing bond bill. These weren't isolated incidents: those background checks revealed civil or criminal arrests and convictions for these or other matters.

All totaled, our most recent eviction data show landlords should be worried. One out of every 20 evictions now takes more than 213 days and costs more than $20,400. "Worst case" for a landlord and their neighbors has been $213,589 and 687 days. This is part of the reason we have now overhauled our notices to quit. The amount of damage a renter can do exceeds the rent you could collect from their unit by an order of magnitude. We must sometimes evict. There should be consequences for bad renters.

We have tried to help solve the housing crisis in any number of ways, including offering single-family districts the Certified Massachusetts Landlord™. This program would give communities additional leverage for landlords and renters alike to follow the rules, especially where ADUs butt up against previously tranquil properties. But no one at the state or city level seems to be picking up what we're putting down.

If the legislature passes eviction sealing, a referendum would require us to gather 50,000 signatures in a matter of months. I feel confident single-family residents would flock to our side. But is this where you want your dollars spent? And is this really what it comes to? That in order to stop professional tenants, we have to oppose even the meager growth promised by ADUs? The governor has been ill advised.

If you are willing to go talk to your representative and senator, especially if they are in leadership, please email us. We'll go together and talk to them about what the governor has asked for and why it will be bad for everyone.

Thank you for supporting our mission to create better rental housing. We've got your back only because you've got ours. Please join as a member, encourage others to join, become a property rights supporter or increase your level of support. We aim to hire both a full-time educator and policy advocate.


Douglas Quattrochi

Executive Director

MassLandlords, Inc.

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