Letter from the Executive Director for June 2019

In May we developed our certification, wrote an amicus brief to defend rent escrow, wrote an op-ed to defend against right to counsel, and reflected on the short-term rental ban.

Our plans for a Certified Massachusetts Landlord™ were presented to over 200 event participants. Overall feedback has been encouraging. Attendees saw the need for a professional certification. The specific implementation we are proposing seems to resonate.

The Certified Massachusetts Landlord™ will be voluntary, with four levels to start. Level One will entail a commitment to support our mission to create better rental housing. Level Two will be a measure of experience, or for new owners, minimum training. Level Three will be a commitment to ethical business practice above and beyond the law. Level Four will be a commitment to landlord-specific continuing education by attendance at our events.

The particulars of each certification level are still to be fleshed out, and approved by the state-wide Board of Directors, but we now feel confident that we have a roadmap. Many conversations with members over the last month have informed our detailed plans. If you have specific questions, concerns, or suggestions, reach out to us.

Our voluntary certification program will go a long way towards establishing our credibility as a voice for policy reform in Massachusetts.

Speaking of policy, MassLandlords filed an amicus brief in the case of Davis v Comerford. We seek to defend an owner’s right to escrow rent. Renters have argued that rent escrow ought to be viewed as a form of injunctive relief, and that the rent escrow law ought to be struck down as invalid. We have argued that rent escrow is not only legal but also that injunctive relief is warranted.

There are many cracked policy ideas to oppose this session. Here are two more:

First is the Right to Counsel, the idea that renters only – not landlords – should have a taxpayer funded lawyer for all eviction cases. This idea was recently endorsed by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly. Their readers stand to gain enormously by an increase in the amount of money available for litigation, by our estimate, as much as ten million dollars annually. They kindly agreed to let us publish our dissenting op-ed in their paper.

Second is the ban on short-term rentals, which takes effect July 1 and is discussed at length in this edition. This ban is perhaps the largest curtailment of property rights in recent Massachusetts history. Some businesses have now shut down or pivoted out of the space. This ban may soon be overturned.

Thanks to your support, we are opposing these and other measures where we can, always in accordance with the wishes of the membership as expressed in our policy priorities survey. We are building up the infrastructure to create better rental housing in Massachusetts, and surely, building towards great things.

Douglas Quattrochi
Executive Director
MassLandlords, Inc.