Eviction Moratorium Raises Constitutional Questions

The call to action below was emailed to subscribers the morning of Thursday, April 16.

Today we need you to call the Governor and/or your Governor’s councilor.

An eviction moratorium was reconciled late Wednesday and is expected to head to the Governor’s office soon to become law as early as today. This bill makes sense from a public health perspective, but it has some major flaws.

First among these is practicality. The bill offers mortgage forbearance, but only for owner-occupy fours and below. How will housing providers cover costs with neither rental income nor cost reduction?

Second, those of us who read the bill in detail can see that this public health law violates two basic rights that are guaranteed by our State Constitution:

  1. the right of access to justice, and
  2. the right to reasonable compensation for public takings of private property.

Calling and email can make a difference. Before signing this bill, the Governor (and Governor’s Council) can and should ask the Supreme Judicial Court for an advisory opinion as to whether the law would be constitutional. Chapter 3, section 2 of the Constitution allows the Governor & Council to seek the opinion of the justices “upon important questions of law and upon solemn occasions.” Today we have both an important question of law and a solemn occasion.

This eviction moratorium bill, which is on its way to the Governor now, will prohibit property owners from asking the courts to evict tenants unless there is a health and safety violation to another resident. It will effectively compel owners to provide free housing (a public benefit) at their own expense, with no compensation from the Commonwealth. Two articles of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights are at stake:

  • Article 10 (no takings without compensation); and
  • Article 11 (everyone has the right to seek a legal remedy by recourse to the laws, and to obtain justice freely)

To make matters worse, the law would remain in effect at the discretion of the Governor, not the Legislature. This is a separation of powers issue.

Please call the Governor and your Governor’s Councilor today and urge them to seek an advisory opinion from the SJC. This is our last chance to stop this unconstitutional bill from becoming law. We must find a long-term sustainable way to provide housing for the needed stay-at-home order, however long it may last.

https://www.mass.gov/orgs/office-of-the-governor

(scroll down)

https://www.mass.gov/service-details/councillors

First find your district at http://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/eledist/counc11idx.htm

Suggested text:

An eviction moratorium H4647 has been drafted by the legislature for signing into law today or very soon. Chapter 3, section 2 of the Constitution allows you to seek the opinion of the Supreme Judicial Court “upon important questions of law and upon solemn occasions.” I think this law is unconstitutional. Please request the SJC review the law prior to signing.

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10 Responses to Eviction Moratorium Raises Constitutional Questions

  1. Maureen Atkins says:

    I am a senior citizen and a landlord. I have my bills. How can you allow this law. There won’t be a landlord in Massachusetts who gets any rent. If this passes I will never vote for Baker again.

  2. Kathryn Gallagher says:

    An eviction moratorium H4647 has been drafted by the legislature for signing into law today or very soon. Chapter 3, section 2 of the Constitution allows you to seek the opinion of the Supreme Judicial Court “upon important questions of law and upon solemn occasions.” I think this law is unconstitutional. Please request the SJC review the law prior to signing. Thank you.

  3. DEBORAH MOORE says:

    An eviction moratorium H4647 has been drafted by the legislature for signing into law today or very soon. Chapter 3, section 2 of the Constitution allows you to seek the opinion of the Supreme Judicial Court “upon important questions of law and upon solemn occasions.” I think this law is unconstitutional. Please request the SJC review the law prior to signing.

  4. Peter savage says:

    Totally unfair how can we matain our properties pay our mortgages and taxes and insurance an utilities. We all will go under water as landlords. I beg you not to do this to us please totally unfair. Why would you do this to us most tenant will collect unemployment and some are on housing Benifits. This will kill us all as landlords. I work so hard for my business how can you just take it all away from me. You are also sending a message to paying tenants telling them it’s all right not to pay rent. Do you realize what your doing. Shame on you

  5. Raphael Maliakal says:

    Courts should decide on eviction. If there is a blanket moratorium on eviction several tenants will take advantage.

    Raphael maliakal

  6. John says:

    The governor is going to make this worse. The Chief Justice has already issued a ruling a month ago and it’s working fine and protecting those who are affected. Why do politicians feel the need to make matters worse. Rent is still not forgiven and accrues so those tenants that can pay and don’t because they don’t understand will suffer because of this reckless act.

  7. eric says:

    I own several properties. Charlie Baker is completely over stepping his bounds on this one. A lot of evictions were on going prior to the virus and have nothing to do with people losing their jobs. This is totally unconstitutional in every way. If I want food and go to the grocery store am I allowed to just walk out and not pay? Have the SJC review and give an advisory opinion on this.

  8. John says:

    Charlie Baker waited 2 full weeks to shut down the state after the President shut down the country. Now he is sticking it to the landlords for his incompetence! We should be able to evict those who are not effected and playing the system. Great job Charlie! Allowing tenants to have a interest free loan off the back of landlords is wrong.

  9. E Aguiar says:

    This is so wrong in every level. Some tenants are still working and those that’s not working, they’re getting unemployment plus $600.00 more a week. They’re getting paid more now not working than when they were working.
    I’m a landlord for many years and this is absorb. I will not vote him again
    You don’t have to be a landlord to know this is ridiculous. Can all commercial properties not pay rent? Open or not?

  10. Jimmy Carlos says:

    I am a small landlord too. I beleive this law is over reaching. Gov. Baker forgot that a lot of these people are making more collecting than working. People who own these properties invest their hard earned money work more than 40 hours a week. Deal with burdensome rules and regulations where the deck is stacked against the landlord. Landlords have families to support too. We have no guarnted pensions, and paidhealth insurance like these polticians who insist on stealing from the working people in this state. If it wasn’t for small business owners and landlords, lots of theese cities and towns would be dumps worse than some already are.

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