Dear Mr. Speaker:
During the COVID19 emergency many tenants in Massachusetts will find themselves unable to pay their rent. Members of MassLandlords will continue to do their best to help by reducing and deferring rent when necessary and practicable, but will not be able to shoulder this burden themselves for long. Proposals to impose mandatory rent deferrals and halt summary-process cases would certainly alleviate short-term problems for tenants but only by directly transferring those problems to rental-property owners.
The knock-on effects would be significant. Like tenants, landlords have obligations to others, e.g. employees and lenders. Relieving tenants of the contractual duty to pay rent would reduce the ability of landlords to meet their own obligations. This, in turn, would tend to erode the very qualities that are essential for any society to endure and survive a crisis, namely civic virtue and social cohesion. The sense that legislators are siding with a larger group (tenants) at the expense of an economic minority (landlords) would further erode those qualities, making it harder both to maintain stability during the emergency and to recover afterwards.
We believe that there are three practical steps that the Legislature could take that would help stabilize the situation without unfairly burdening rental-property owners and thereby undermining trust in government and social cohesion:
1.Guarantee rents for the duration of the emergency. Tenants unable to pay rent would be secure in the knowledge that the Commonwealth as a whole will cover any shortfall, and landlords (in particular those who depend on rents to pay mortgages and make payroll) would be held harmless.
2. Make a monthly payment of at least $1,000.00 to each and every individual in Massachusetts for the duration of the emergency, i.e. an emergency universal basic income.
3. Guarantee landlords’ property tax payments, or allow them to defer payments until six months after the end of the emergency.
We hope that you will give these proposals prompt and serious consideration.
Thank you for your ongoing service to the people of Massachusetts.
Peter Vickery, Esq.