DHCD Lawsuit Motion to Reconsider


2022-10-13 Business Update - DHCD Lawsuit Motion to Reconsider

Resource Persons:

Douglas Quattrochi – Doug

Atty. Peter Vickery - Peter

[Start 0:00:00]

Doug: Today’s business update is about lawsuit against the Department of Housing and Community Development. We have filed our motion to reconsider. My name is Doug Quattrochi. I’m the executive director of MassLandlords.

For those of you who don’t know, during the pandemic, there were about 151,000 applications for rental assistance that were timed out. The state and its agency said there weren’t enough documentation. There wasn’t documentation submitted to go along with these, and of those, 47,000 were actually lost to state supervision. That’s a big problem because we’re worried these households were actually evicted, and these landlords went out of business.

Here to speak with us about this today is MassLandlords Legislative Affairs Counsel, Atty. Peter Vickery.

Peter: Thank you, Doug. Yes, we will debrief and filed it in December of last year, 2021, then went to the John Adams Courthouse in Boston to argue it, and that’s a long roundtrip. I live in Amherst in Western Mass, so that shows I think our commitment to helping landlords and renters get the rental assistance they deserve and are legally entitled to. Unfortunately, for MassLandlords, our members, and for public interest I think, Judge Cowin, who is the judge in this case, allowed the department’s motion to dismiss.

To be clear, no trial yet, no evidentiary hearing. This threshold moment, the judge allowed the department’s motion to dismiss. We have filed an appeal, a notice of appeal, and we have also filed as of last Friday – I’m sorry [unintelligible 0:01:30] week, so on the other side last Friday a motion for reconsideration, and when they sent their opposition to us, we then filed that with the court, so appeal and motion for reconsideration.

The motion for reconsideration comes with four affidavits from the public. One from a landlord; two from renters who were unlawfully denied rental assistance; and we also have an affidavit from a researcher at Brown University, and I’ll explain why in a moment.

Now our argument is that the court essentially made three mistakes, three errors.

First, the Public Records Law says expressly the government has the burden of proof if it wants to withhold records from the public. But what the judge did in allowing the motion to dismiss was basically flipped that burden, so that the burden fell on us to disprove the government’s case.

Second, the court didn’t seem to understand how we would use the public records that we’re seeking. The courts seemed to think that we would need to out or docks individual renters in order to show disparate impact, and that’s not the case and that’s what the affidavit from the researcher shows, we hope.

Third, the court didn’t see the public interest in the massive number of time lapse. Readers of our newsletter will recall that in one four-month period, November 2020 to March 2021, the department rejected or the RAAs rejected something like 68 percent of applications for no apparent reason and they couldn’t tell anybody why, so that’s something the public has an interest in. We’re going to continue to litigate the case on behalf of owners and renters, and we’re doing that because of the commitment of members.

Thank you MassLandlords members for your support in this, in particular, the property rights supporters whose funding makes that work possible. Thank you so much.

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