In May, we were busy. I have three updates to share, all related: we marketed to potential new members, we built an address comparison capability and we advanced our public records requests at the state and city levels.
For the last couple of years, we’ve experimented with and developed a postcard marketing capability. If you’ve received a postcard from us in the past, it was probably because you were already a member. We want every member to benefit from as many member services as possible. This effort was aimed at reducing churn (increasing retention).
In May, for the first time ever, we trialed sending postcards to non-member new investors. This is something we have wanted to try for a long time. We have more than 2,400 dues-paying members. We estimate that there are 70,000 landlords in Massachusetts. We want to reach more, faster.
A critical piece of direct mail marketing is an address comparison capability. For example, we check the investor address against various other addresses to make sure we are sending relevant information. Having a person compare addresses is relatively easy. For example, a knowledgeable person recognizes that “123 Main St, Leicester, MA 01234” is the same address as “123 Main Street, Cherry Valley, Mass., 01233-5678.” Like many Massachusetts place names, Cherry Valley is actually a neighborhood in Leicester; the street and state can be abbreviated or not; zip codes can be wrong. Teaching a computer to recognize all this is hard. Well, we’ve done it. Our benchmark test compares 235,000 addresses per second.
This address comparison capability also helps our rental assistance public records lawsuit. As you know, we are trying to find out how many applicants for rental assistance were wrongly denied. MassLandlords has sued the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) for the addresses of applicants. Our first hearing is June 15, at 3 p.m., at the John Adams Courthouse in Boston.
If we prevail in that case, we will be able to use our new address comparison software to compare the rental assistance records to the eviction records. We painstakingly gather eviction records each week. The court case to get the rental assistance records may take months, but the analysis may take minutes.
Lots more happened in May. The rent control bills were extended until June 30. The City of Boston denied our public records request, all but ensuring they would be hauled into court, same as DHCD. We submitted an amicus brief in the case of Slavin v. Lewis, aiming to protect owners against the growing threat of 93A claims and to protect renters against unlawful removal. We gave an interview to WGBH on the tragic heat-related deaths in Chicago (as in Chicago, the Massachusetts sanitary code requires heat be available until well past when it’s needed). We published an FAQ on “Why aren’t all meetings recorded?” We published a Certification Explainer to share with renters. We published a page where anyone can order marketing materials to share with friends, clients and others.
MassLandlords is an enormously valuable service to owners, managers and service providers of rental housing. Please join as a member, become a property rights supporter or increase your level of support.