By Eric Weld, MassLandlords, Inc.
With substantial increases in member benefits in recent years combined with a need to achieve financial stability for both maintaining staff salaries and policy competitiveness at the local and state levels, MassLandlords will raise its membership dues for the first time in seven years.
We have made every effort to keep our price of membership stable, at $98 or $100 per year for most members, even while increasing the value. This is a dues level far below similar organizations throughout the country, and it has become apparent that, in order to move forward as an effective association with strong representation and influence on behalf of landlords, we have no choice but to increase the cost of membership.
In both savings and services, MassLandlords has added numerous benefits and resources for our members that far surpass the price of annual dues. As a MassLandlords member, you have access to our Home Depot savings program, for one example, in which you can save an average of 7.5% at Home Depot stores and online. Some members have realized thousands of dollars from this benefit alone. We also provide many other valuable benefits, including:
- a complete set of up-to-date forms pertaining to rent collection, leases, applications, notices to quit, renewals, security deposits, inspections, and much more;
- an ongoing service provider directory specific to rental property owners and managers;
- a member discount for incorporating and creating LLCs;
- savings at RentHelper, SmartScreen, and New Leaf Legal;
- opportunities to attend live educational and networking events with other housing providers for the member price;
- video access to past live events covering landlord laws, legislation, operations and other business topics;
- message boards and a Facebook group in which you can interact with other landlords;
- a legal helpline for direct professional assistance on landlording;
- thousands of pages of ongoing information, news, tips and stories about landlording in Massachusetts via our monthly newsletter and dynamic website.
Operating on a Shoestring is No Longer Sustainable
MassLandlords has been operating on a minimal budget for several years. Our executive director, for one example, while leading the association’s expansion, has worked for less than minimum wage for eight years while deferring salary compensation for the sake of growth. Executive Director Doug Quattrochi accepted a deferred compensation payment agreement upon his hire in recognition that 1) the association’s resources were limited, and 2) that if he were to succeed in implementing his envisioned expansions, a commensurate salary would eventually become available. (Quattrochi’s total take-home pay over eight years: $72,094.68, or less than $6 per hour). In the first half of 2021, MassLandlords operated with 27 full- and part-time staff members – 10 full-time equivalent. All were paid at market rates except the executive director position.
But even as we have grown, and alongside a deferred compensation for the executive director, we have had to partially furlough staff members on two occasions since 2019 due to cashflow shortages. The continued function and success of MassLandlords is dependent on our ability to adequately compensate staff in a sustainable manner. Staff interruptions negatively impact our ability to steadily pursue policy goals. They also make it difficult to attract and retain high-quality personnel on our team.
Our ongoing functions of advocating for landlords and housing in Massachusetts, and competing for policies that support our mission against groups that counter our efforts are also dependent on adequate funding, for legal representation, staffing and resources.
With all of these circumstances in mind, the MassLandlords Board of Directors analyzed the association’s structure of benefits, operation and personnel and approved the dues increase.
Most MassLandlords Members Will See Only a Nominal Monthly Increase
Keeping in mind the value of the above benefits, which include $500 per year in rental form updates alone, the pricing will be as follows:
Beginning as soon as is practicable, the base price of membership in MassLandlords will be $225 per year, in addition to incremental, per-unit dues for owners of multiple units, with two important caveats:
- Current members on autorenew will be grandfathered for this dues increase until at least their next renewal date if not longer. For those not signed up for autorenewal, when the increase takes effect, it will be effective as of your next renewal payment.
- A hardship waiver will be available for any members who cannot afford this increase, due, for example, to a temporary setback.
MassLandlords benefits are scaled. The more rental units you own, the more benefit you derive. (For instance, the Home Depot benefit alone has saved participating members $9.47 per unit per year.) For this reason, we will also implement a graduated per-unit dues component in addition to the annual base fee of $225.
Landlords owning up to nine rental units will owe an additional $2.25 per unit as part of their dues. Those with 10 to 49 units will owe that amount plus an additional $4 for each unit between 10 and 49. Landlords with 50 units or more will owe fees according to the above structure plus $5 for each unit between 50 and 499. Those with more than 500 units will owe $6 for each additional unit from 500 and above, in addition to base dues and the categorized fees above.
With this increase, 91% of our members will pay annual dues equivalent to less than $35 per month to continue their MassLandlords membership. Put another way, annual dues collected from most members will equal approximately 0.1% or less of gross rents.
The large majority of MassLandlords members own fewer than 10 rental units, and this dues increase will mean a nominal monthly increase. Many own fewer than five units and will see an increase of about $10-$12 per month.
For example, if you are a member with four rentals, your projected membership benefit equals $505 per year; your annual dues will be $225 base fee plus $9, or $234, a breakdown of $19.50 per month, an increase of about $11. A member with 35 units has a projected membership benefit of $2,311; dues for 35 units will be $345.25 per year ($225 base fee; plus $2.25 for nine units, or $20.25; plus $4 for each of 25 units, or $100). For a member with 100 units, projected benefits will be $4,911; annual dues will be $651.25. An owner of 1,000 rental units is projected to benefit by $40,777 (primarily through Home Depot savings); dues will be $5,696.25.
(For comparison, measure these membership fees against those of the California Apartment Association.)
Although large on percentage terms relative to prior dues, these increases should be small relative to rents and benefits in all markets. Note also that paying the “per unit” dues will entitle your business to have unlimited logins: every team member can access benefits and become certified.
Savings Through MassLandlords Member Benefits
MassLandlords is far more than what it used to be. We have grown from a disparate collection of clubs with a few hundred members into a powerful organization with more than 2,200 members representing every corner of the state, empowered with a collective voice and a direct connection to lawmakers and leaders.
As we have expanded, MassLandlords has continuously sought to increase the value of membership by adding savings opportunities, such as our partnership discount program with Home Depot, credit screening reports with SmartScreen, inexpensive rent collection with RentHelper, and more. Meanwhile, we have built a robust statewide network of landlord-to-landlord communication through our online message boards and Facebook page, where members trade tips and share advice for ways to operate their businesses more efficiently and economically.
This year we have introduced the second level of our Certified Massachusetts LandlordTM credential, a professional, proprietary certification program – the only program of its kind in the country – that distinguishes and recognizes quality landlords.
Navigating Through the Covid Pandemic
The past year has been a difficult one, for everyone. The COVID-19 pandemic impacted landlords in Massachusetts in numerous devastating ways, knocking some of us out of business. Our state ratified one of the most landlord-unfriendly eviction moratoriums in the country.
In addition to keeping our members informed about laws and Covid-related news, MassLandlords worked behind the scenes all year representing landlords’ interests, lobbying legislators on pending bills, and devising optimal solutions for keeping all Massachusetts residents – tenants, homeowners and landlords – in their homes and businesses.
In the past two years, our lobbying activity has jumped to more than $80,000 worth of salary hours, according to lobbying disclosure reports filed with the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth. In contrast with lobbying disclosures filed by other groups, MassLandlords may be the fastest growing housing advocacy organization in the state.
We think our constant input and vigilance have made important impacts on ameliorating the effects that Covid has had on housing in the state.
Growing Toward the Future
We are proud of the work we do throughout the year on behalf of Massachusetts landlords. And we are not done growing and advocating for our members.
As we have grown and expanded our programming and capabilities, we have necessarily added staff and resources to accommodate our work. Of course, these additions come at a price, and we have made every effort to keep our expenses cost-effective without compromising our efficacy.
With Great Appreciation for Our Members
MassLandlords exists for you and because of you. We appreciate all of our members and aim to continue our growth in membership, capacity and representation. If we did not harbor ambitious goals, if we were satisfied to remain modest and insignificant, perhaps we could continue to operate on a shoestring as we have been.
But our goals are substantial. We aim to help Massachusetts become the best place to own and to rent, to be a state that is fair and favorable for housing providers and renters, and where investing and working as a landlord provides invaluable rewards, both financial and personal.
We will continue working toward these objectives, with your indispensable input and assistance. As we implement this new dues structure, we invite you to keep us informed about your MassLandlords experience, and what your membership means to you. Please send your comments to email@example.com.