February was a great month for MassLandlords, in terms of services we offer members and our political advocacy.
The RentHelper service, a spin-off we launched in 2016 with some outside for-profit investment, continues to grow organically. RentHelper issued $900,000 in 1099-MISC forms to participating MassLandlords members, a new record. The service is a virtual office manager that automates rent collection, texts with renters about payment timing and amount, and reports to Transunion for credit.
The Certified Massachusetts Landlord Level Two test is up and running to beta testers. Comments in general have so far been completely positive. We have observed that the beta test is capable of passing landlords proficient in some areas but not in others, for instance, fair housing but not security deposits. We will likely further extend the test launch date to April so we can break the test into modules. This will ensure that each certified landlord demonstrates minimum competence in each critical skill.
We corrected some longstanding issues with the renewal of membership add-on’s, like the print newsletter, advertisements, helpline, and property rights supporter donations. We expect these renewals to go smoother for participating members starting in March and April.
We updated our Policy Priorities Survey and started sending out notice via print, email, and the website. We have included questions on eviction sealing, transfer taxes, and emotional support animals. We have replaced proposals on climate change and public subsidy administration with new wording. We continue to ask about rent control, security deposit reform, and much more.
In terms of advocacy, we turned our attention to the municipal level. We provided written testimony to the City of Worcester about their proposal to go fare-free with the Worcester Regional Transportation Administration. We also wrote to the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission to help with its work to review impediments to fair housing. We pointed out that rental housing is in short supply in part because most communities have minimum lot sizes, restrictions on unrelated occupants, and parking requirements. Safe apartments are unnecessarily illegal in many places they otherwise would exist. We hope to contribute to the zoning reform that will fix some of these longstanding barriers to entry.
Overall, February continued our upward climb. Please invite a friend to join our mailing list; we’re doing great work, and our membership offers something to everyone in the business, especially policy-wise.