Letter from the Executive Director for September 2020: Individual Claims Council

In August we created half a dozen new chapters, reorganized a statewide message board, and had the first meeting of the Eviction Moratorium Individual Claims Council.

The new chapters cover regions we had been holding open for preexisting local clubs. But as we look toward a policy future where state enabling laws may soon permit municipalities to enact their own destructive policies, like rent control and tighter zoning, we have had to push ourselves faster to become effective local advocates.

Creating new chapters has also enabled us to implement best practices for message board size and engagement. We had a particular issue on the statewide board with trolls, particularly a few seeking to undermine our democratically chosen response to the eviction moratorium (lobbying first, litigation second). As readers of national news will know, it falls to organizations like Twitter, Facebook, and to a lesser extent MassLandlords to crack down on peer-to-peer misinformation and conspiracy theories.

The major initiative formalized in August is the Individual Claims Council. Starting on September 10, we will process legal intake for any member who wishes to file a claim against the Commonwealth for unpaid rent under the moratorium. The purpose is not to evict anyone:

During the pandemic stay-at-home order, people needed to have a home to stay in. And during the medical and economic recovery that lies ahead, the Commonwealth's residents will need our housing for a long while yet to come. We have said from the beginning that this shared burden should be covered by the Commonwealth as a whole. No one should be evicted because of the pandemic or its aftermath. No housing provider should be asked to provide this needed housing to the public for free, to pay for upcoming months or years of repairs, real estate taxes, utilities, and mortgages without income.

The eviction moratorium is a Band-Aid, but stitches are required. We have developed and found funding for a Fair and Equal Housing Guarantee via Surety Bonds, but none in leadership have agreed to file it. We have asked the Governor not to extend the moratorium, but he has extended it to October and may extend it again after that.

We now turn to the courts to make it clear, on a case-by-case basis, how great is the need. We are not launching an assault on the constitutionality of the moratorium (although it is unconstitutional). Instead we have created an Individual Claims Council. This council is a network of attorneys who are now collaborating and available to help landlords make individual claims against the Commonwealth. As I have said above, I repeat myself: the purpose is not to evict anyone. The purpose of the suits will be to obtain the reasonable compensation to which we are now entitled as providers of housing during a pandemic. The purpose is also to eliminate our renter's unpaid obligations by court ordered public subsidy.

This initiative will run in parallel to our continued advocacy for a Fair and Equal Housing Guarantee via Surety Bonds and will be explained in detail at our September 10 virtual meeting.

Thank you for supporting our mission to create better rental housing in Massachusetts.

Stay safe,
Douglas Quattrochi
Executive Director
MassLandlords, Inc.