Open Letter to Members on Eviction Sealing Hearing Tues. May 9

Please mark your calendars for next Tuesday, May 9, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. The State House has announced a hearing of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary at which eviction sealing, among other bills, will be heard.

Eviction sealing is housing partisanship from renter advocacy circles without landlord input. Actually, I did provide input to then-councilor, now senator, Lydia Edwards in her office: don't do it.

The problem we're trying to solve here is simple: some renters have a court history through no fault of their own. There are three ways this can happen. Each has a different solution.

To help renters filed against for-cause, we should make housing history a protected class like criminal history. This would require owners to evaluate for-cause eviction filings on a case-by-case basis. “Did the renter win their case? Was it a long time ago? Is this a different situation now?” Any of these could mean a for-cause case no longer matters.

To help renters evicted for nonpayment, we should expand the safety net to catch people upstream of court. We should eliminate the requirement to serve a notice to quit. And we should help the regionals process applications in a timely fashion without prioritizing cases closer to final eviction.

To help renters evicted “no fault,” well, here we have the hardest problem.

Proponents of eviction sealing argue that huge numbers of renters are evicted “no fault” when property owners want to renovate. Take it from any landlord, this should never happen. Any landlord who can do math will quickly realize they are better off reimbursing a renter to leave than hiring an attorney to slog through months of court and possible counterclaims.

Renters in court through “no fault of their own” are a very different matter from a “no-fault eviction filing.” When a landlord takes a renter to court for no-fault, it’s most likely that something has gone seriously wrong.

For instance, a no-fault eviction filing is the only remedy available for landlords where witnesses are afraid to come forward and testify in a for-cause eviction case. There is usually no witness protection program for civil matters. Without evidence from witnesses, you cannot have a for-cause case that meets evidentiary standards. A “no-fault eviction” case does not always mean the tenant was not at fault.

In conflating no-fault eviction cases with other court cases, eviction sealing threatens to make impossible the most important tenant screening work in Massachusetts. Landlords have to see court records to determine their relevance to our existing customers. We have to talk to both sides. If we’re found to be treating applicants unfairly, we can be sued for discrimination. But above all, we have to ensure that the new residents we approve will be contributing members of the community, same as everyone else who passed our application.

Tuesday’s hearing needs strong owner and manager turnout. MassLandlords will be writing testimony for this and other bills being heard next week. We will also be coordinating your testimony in writing, by Zoom and in-person. Stay tuned for more details. For now, please mark this time on your calendars to participate in-person or by Zoom.

Doug Quattrochi
Executive Director
MassLandlords, Inc.

6 Responses to Open Letter to Members on Eviction Sealing Hearing Tues. May 9

  1. Brian Flynn says:

    I read a lot of horror stories on this website. NOW is the time to grow a pair. whatever you’re doing on the 9th is secondary to this issue. We need to swamp the statehouse with people the way third rate tenants and other rights stealing advocates do in order to get our voices heard and keep our rights from being further eroded

    Maybe the association should drop a dime to a local reporter to boot.

  2. Roger Williams says:

    Once again. This is only going to help protect the bad tenant. Landlords know that there are some good tenants who end up in housing court because of a bad landlord not taking care of their property or that the landlord wants them out to do renovations. WE don’t go strictly by seeing that a prospective tenant was in Housing Court. We make a decision after getting their side of the story.

  3. Mary Jane says:

    What then does a tenant do when they get evicted for speaking up for themselves while trying to protect their children? It is not as easy as just get up a leave the apartment when you have little ones.
    One apartment I had gave my child lead poisoning, the next was infested with bats and the next one the landlord didn’t check the new upstairs tenants background and they were drug dealers. So when I spoke up I was faced with eviction.

    So what then? I have to carry the burden of the evictions when we did nothing wrong but try to protect ourselves? How is it the tenants fault when there are bad landlords out there. Where are the protections for tenants.
    This landlord association demonizes tenants before they even fill out an application not knowing what the tenant has gone through. Very myopic.

  4. Al says:

    Mary Jane,

    if everyone landlord was bad for you, is time to see yourself in the next closest mirror

  5. tiny fishing says:

    Eviction sealing is a proposal that seeks to hide the names of plaintiffs and defendants named in summary process (eviction) cases from the public records 1. It is supported by some renter advocates and opposed by some landlords 1. The hearing will be held by the Joint Committee on the Judiciary at the State House, Room A-2, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m 2. You can find more information about the hearing and the bills on the committee’s website.

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