Letter from the Executive Director for June 2018

In May we hired two new team members, received decisions about two major bills and two court cases, and moved two local initiatives forward in Worcester.

Our new part-time team members are Jillian Campayno and Wakana Gates. Both have the role of “Information Manager.” We are working to transition operational responsibility over to them, so that we have redundancy and extra bandwidth to do what we need to grow.

As detailed in this edition, H.4142 and H.981 were both sent to study by the legislature. H.4142 was Boston’s Just Cause Eviction proposal, and as a partisan and poorly drafted bill deserved to fail. Our offer stands to work with Boston on zoning reform and other alternatives.

H.981 was the compromise rent escrow bill resulting from a year’s discussion between Skip Schloming, Annette Duke, and Representative Chris Walsh. Representative Walsh passed on May 2, and is the focus of an in memoriam in this edition. Without his even-tempered support, the bill could not pass. It leaves us wondering whether any bill proposed by owners can pass the legislature.

Two court cases around a single issue were decided. They answered the question, “Can a property manager file a summons and complaint for a third party?” The answer to this is “no.” We successfully intervened to eliminate the 93A triple damages demanded by the tenant advocates, but we fell short of our goal of demonstrating that the court facilitated this owner’s unauthorized practice of law. It’s likely that both sides are now claiming victory. As is true of any court case, however, both sides lost.

In Worcester, we have been pushing forward with the “four or more” repeal that has been gaining steam over the last ten years. Owners there propose to rent four bedrooms to four unrelated individuals, currently prohibited by Worcester ordinance. Supporters of reform argue that greater density is warranted; it remains to be seen whether parking and nuisance concerns can be addressed to the satisfaction of all, such that consensus is reached.

In Worcester on the Homelessness Task Force, we have made our case for an Insurance Against Homelessness program, or Landlord-Tenant Guarantee fund. This may be adopted as a recommendation of the task force and/or piloted at small scale. The City of Boston briefly took up this idea but to our knowledge, the pilot never got off the ground. Seattle has housed thousands with this model.

The last of our event season closes in June with a set of highly engaging meetings, and then we’ll be working full time over the summer (sans events) to move our organization forward. Events resume in September.

Thank you for your support as we build the first professionally staffed trade association for landlords in Massachusetts.

Douglas Quattrochi
Executive Director
MassLandlords, Inc.