Massachusetts Housing Policy
This part of the site is where we discuss proposed changes to Massachusetts housing policy, meaning all laws and regulations that impact housing, particularly rental housing. (For information on current laws that landlords have to follow, see our Massachusetts Landlord Tenant Laws page.)
Not all Massachusetts housing policy changes discussed here are endorsed; some of what we discuss is strongly opposed.
Major Policy Features of the MassLandlords.net Website
- Related Page: Current Massachusetts Landlord Tenant Law
- MassLandlords Policy Priorities Survey
- Related Page: Join to support policy advocacy
- Related Page: Use and Occupancy Motion Survey
- Related Page: Early Warning System Offers Automatic Notification of City and State Announcements
Massachusetts Housing Policy Topic Areas:
- Eviction Sealing
- First in time ordinances
- Yim v Seattle Overturns “First in Time” Ordinance (May 3, 2018)
- Good Landlord Ordinances (aka usage fees)
- Housing Court
- Eviction Study for Massachusetts Part One
- Weekly eviction data
- Judgments and collections
- Just Cause Eviction
- Late Fees
- Lead Paint
- Marijuana (smoking, forfeiture)
- Public Subsidy Administration
- Rent Control
- Rent Escrow
- Right of First Refusal (Tenant Opportunity to Purchase or TOPA)
- Right to Counsel
- Sanitary Code
- Security Deposits
- Social Safety Net
- Student Housing
- Vacant Land
We will add commentary and documents over time.
2023 - 2024 Legislative Session (193rd), Massachusetts Housing Policy Bills
Links will be added as articles are published.
- Create the Climate Resilient Capital Task Force.
- Allow landlords and contractors who pass a test to conduct like-for-like repair and replacement of minor electrical and plumbing systems.
- Allow LLCs to represent themselves in court.
- Move the legislature away from copyrighted laws, including allowing us to read the building code for free. Subject the legislature to the public records law.
- Require that all bills be presented in "tracked changes" format so lay people can read and understand them.
- Create a pilot program for instant rental assistance; fund it with incentives to move away from single family zoning.
- Hold a commission to evaluate the eviction moratorium and ensure it never returns.
- Increase the deleading credit from $1,500 to $15,000 per unit.
- Reform civil asset forfeiture.
- Change the $10,000 RAFT cap, which is regressive in Boston, to be X months of rent. Require the full RAFT benefit be paid out regardless of whether for arrears or going-forward stipend to eliminate incentives to sandbag.
- Declare eviction and rental assistance records to be public records; create new protected classes to prevent unfair discrimination based on this information.
2021 - 2022 Legislative Session (192nd), Massachusetts Housing Policy Bills
- 192-HD.3325 An Act Establishing a Right to Counsel in Civil Asset Forfeiture Cases (MassLandlords supports)
- 192-HD.3676 An Act enabling local options for tenant protections (MassLandlords opposes)
- 192 H1426 HD.2984 An Act to guarantee a tenant’s first right of refusal
- 192 S890 SD.1672 An Act to guarantee a tenant’s first right of refusal
- Bills Prepared for the 192nd Legislative Session
- Rent-payment surety bond pilot program
- Right to counsel in civil asset forfeiture
- Public ownership of public information
2019 - 2020 Legislative Session (191st), Massachusetts Housing Policy Bills
MassLandlords has not taken a position on all bills below. When we are able to read and understand the intent, we will compare this with our Policy Priorities Survey and make an endorsement or statement of opposition.
Bills of note by topic:
- An Act to Protect Elderly Tenants
- Right of First Refusal and Right to Counsel, Boston Versions. Ask Your Legislators to Say No (Article 2019 February), see H.1315 below
- Rent Cancellation, HD.5166 SD.2992. MassLandlords opposes.
- Rent Escrow, supported by Democrats and Republicans in the Senate and the House. HD.1474 and SD 231.
- Tenant Protection Act (Rent Control) Full Analysis: An Act Enabling Local Options for Tenant Protections, 191-H.3924-HD.1100
Bills by number:
- HD 1100 Tenant Protection Act (Rent Control) Full Analysis: An Act Enabling Local Options for Tenant Protections, 191-H.3924-HD.1100
- HD 1191 Rent escrow. Rep Boldyga (R). MassLandlords supports.
- HD 1192 Late fees. Rep. Boldyga (R). MassLandlords supports.
- HD 1194 Elderly tenants. Rep. Boldyga (R). MassLandlords supports.
- H.1315 (formerly HD 3740) Right of first refusal, Denise Provost (D), MassLandlords opposes
- HD 1202 Right to purchase. Rep. Boldyga (R). MassLandlords supports.
- HD 1205 Equal counsel. Rep. Boldyga (R). MassLandlords supports.
- H.1260: An Act to guarantee a tenant’s first right of refusal, Rep. Cullinane (D), MassLandlords opposes
- HD 1474 Rent escrow . Rep Barrows (R), Sen Hinds (D), Rep Robinson (D), Rep LeBeouf (D). MassLandlords supports.
- HD 1457 Security deposits. Rep Barrows (R). MassLandlords supports.
- HD.5166 An Act to guarantee housing stability during the COVID-19 emergency and recovery (rent cancellation). MassLandlords opposes.
- SD.231 Rent Escrow. Sen Tarr (R), Rep. Robinson (D).
- S.824 Eviction Sealing. Joseph Boncore (D).
- SD.2992 An Act to guarantee housing stability during the COVID-19 emergency and recovery (rent cancellation). MassLandlords opposes.
MassLandlords will endorse issues on either side of the aisle at the municipal, state, or federal level according to our Policy Priorities Survey. We do not endorse candidates. All candidates are welcome to use our events to network with attendees for no cost, and bring literature and team members. Check with our local events teams for details.
Massachusetts Housing Policy Fun Facts
The National Multifamily Housing Council and the National Apartment Association have collaborated on Apartments - We Live Here, a study with interesting statistics:
- There are roughly 800,000 apartment residents in Massachusetts
- The rental industry contributes $21 billion to the Commonwealth's economy
- Including servicing apartment residents, on-site management, and construction, the industry sustains 190,000 jobs
Related Article: 4 Fun Facts About Landlording
Massachusetts Housing Policy Achievements
MassLandlords volunteers and staff have been active participants in Massachusetts housing policy discussions since we launched in 2014.
- 2023 January: We got our first bill dual-filed since water submetering in 2004: to increase the deleading credit to $15,000.
- 2022 October: We learned that prior MassLandlords' testimony greatly influenced the April 2023 sanitary code. Among other things, we made clear that tile backsplashes and mechanical ventilation in bathrooms were not reasonable or necessary in every case.
- 2022 July: The Senate Bill 192 S2988 that MassLandlords filed would reform civil asset forfeiture in Massachusetts. The Senate voted yes (31 to 9); it will be back next session.
- 2022 May: Submitted an amicus brief in the Superior Court case Slavin v. Lewis, in support of the defendant’s rights as a tenant protected from trespass action, in the interest of insulating landlords from vulnerability to violations of Ch. 93A and liability for triple damages.
- 2022 April 4: Presentation to the national Fair Housing and Civil Rights Conference on our dataset of 71,000 eviction records.
- Offered unprecedented suggestions to achieve eviction-free housing.
- 2022 January: Filed testimony opposing Rent Control, Right of First Refusal and other matters before The Joint Committee on Housing Massachusetts General Court.
- 2021 December: After many friendly attempts, sued the Department of Housing and Community Development in the Superior Court for access to records on rental assistance timeouts.
- 2021 October: Petitioned the Attorney General to Amend 940 CMR 3.17 so as to delete from 3.17 (4) (k) the words “or... otherwise fail to comply with the provisions of M.G.L. c. 186, s. 15B.” By these words, 3.17 (4) (k) imposes treble damages and attorney’s fees for violations of the security-deposit law that the Legislature exempted from those remedies.
- 2020 October: Working with DHCD, created the RAFT "owner door," whereby landlords could first start to apply for rental assistance on behalf of our renters.
- 2019 September: Davis v Comerford decision mandating rent escrow under certain circumstances, including passing a multipoint judicial test.
- 2019 May: Davis v Comerford amicus brief arguing that rent escrow is not unlawful.
- 2019 April 6: Oral testimony to HUD indicating the need to shorten Section 8 lease-up times.
- 2018 October 15: Submitted testimony to HUD for Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule changes
- 2018 January 8: Oral Arguments for RPM Services v Hatcher
- Supported oral arguments before the Supreme Judicial Court on how court-sanctioned actions could not trigger automatic triple damages. Several other arguments were advanced; the triple damages argument at least prevailed.
- 2017 October 7: Sanitary Code Testimony
- Provided written testimony on a proposed rewrite of the state sanitary code.
- Pointed out 30 oversights, misconceptions, and bad ideas, some of which would put landlords especially in Franklin County out of business.
- 2017 September 21: State-wide Policy Forum
- Established grassroots foundations for future policy work.
- 2016 March: Meikle v Nurse Amicus Brief.
- Submitted brief to Supreme Judicial Court arguing that when a landlord owes $3 in security deposit interest this should not stop an eviction, especially if the renter owes $3,000 in rent.
- 2016 March: Senate Special Commission on Housing Final Report
- Major contributor to several key areas of report.
- First public endorsement of "Insurance Against Homelessness" aka Landlord Tenant Guarantee Fund.
- 2014 October 8: Small Business Candidates' Night
- Moderated by Ray Mariano, Mayor of Worcester '93 to '01
- Attended by eventual winners of Lt. Governor, Auditor, and Senate races
- 2013 November: First "Town Hall" for candidates, held in Worcester.
Recent Survey Results
- Policy Priorities for May 2019 Show Rent Control Fears (Article June 2019)
Further Reading on Massachusetts Housing Policy
- Attention Lawmakers! Attention Tenants! An Open Letter (Article November 2019)
- Gov. Baker’s Parking Thoughts: Copy Hartford, San Francisco? (Article May 2019)
- Second Semiannual Policy Forum Planned for April 14 (Article January 8, 2018)
- Senate Special Commission on Housing
- Why Municipal Elections Matter (Article November, 2015)
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