In Housing Court, most landlords have lawyers and most tenants do not. The reason is not that landlords want to spend money on lawyers (they don’t). Rather, people who own rental property through corporations or LLCs have no choice; they have to be represented by counsel, like it or not.
But based on the numerical disparity, tenants’ advocates filed right to counsel legislation (H. 3456) that would provide taxpayer-funded lawyers for tenants in practically all residential evictions in Massachusetts. The bill would also require landlords to tell tenants about the right to counsel in the notice to quit. Almost 50 state representatives signed on as co-sponsors.
On May 20, 2019, Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly (a newspaper for attorneys) published an editorial in support of the proposal. We reached out to Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly and asked whether they would be interested in our side of the story. They said yes. We are grateful to the newspaper for providing us with the opportunity to respond.
Our Legislative Affairs Counsel, Peter Vickery, wrote an op-ed for the June 17 edition of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly. Vickery sets out the economic reality, that rents are unaffordable for many of our Commonwealth’s residents, and states plainly that this basic problem cannot be fixed merely by adding lawyers.
Vickery goes on to consider the allegation of an uneven playing field. He explains one underlying reason for the disparity in legal representation (lack of choice for corporate landlords); and then suggests an easier – and cheaper – solution, i.e. let all landlords, regardless of their choice of entity, appear in Housing Court on their own behalf:
“State Representative Nick Boldyga filed a bill (H. 1358) to do just that. If enacted, this measure would allow corporate and LLC landlords to represent themselves, thereby ensuring a more level playing field.”
MassLandlords got in touch with Representative Boldyga at the start of the current legislative session about the right-to-counsel and other issues, and – as a landlord himself – he was happy to offer advice and file our bills. He will be the subject of a profile in a future edition this newsletter.
Our approach to legislative advocacy is much more than “Just Say No” (although there is plenty to say “No” about!). When the tenant-advocates’ bill comes up for hearing, we will be in a position to submit testimony that not only opposes their bill but also points to ours as a fairer and more cost-effective solution. Thank you to our Property Right Supporters for making this work possible.
In the meantime, take a look at the list of the state representatives who are co-sponsoring H.3456 (the bill to give tenants taxpayer-funded lawyers) and, if yours is among them, give them a call and let them know what you think.
Property Rights Supporters make small investments in their business future, which we use for even-handed policy advocacy.