Successful Pilot of the Massachusetts Landlords Defense Fund

In August 2015 MassLandlords got a call from a landlord who had nowhere else to turn. This sparked a nine month adventure which has finally reached a conclusion.

The landlord was dealing with a severe financial crisis. His income was limited to his rent, but two of his six rental units had been in eviction proceedings for months. One was occupied by what he described to us as an entire gang.

He tried to go it alone, but hadn’t been following the legal process very well. He had issued multiple notices and was arguing from fairness instead of legal exactitude. The judge at housing court told him he wouldn’t be allowed to come back pro se (self-represented) and would need to hire an attorney.

He couldn’t afford an attorney. He had spent his last cash on a family member’s funeral. He had no income besides the rental property, which was at reduced capacity with sanitary code violations.

The landlord went three times to get free legal aid. The first two times he was told they don’t help landlords. The third time he was asked to fill out an affidavit of indigency. He failed the test, because his house was grossing too much income. Nevermind that it was losing money net. He called MassLandlords hoping we could help. He had nowhere else to turn.

Getting Involved

Instead of turning him away, we learned about his situation. He was “Deer in the headlights,” according to Sandra Katz, long time landlord and one of the MassLandlords Worcester volunteers who vetted him.

We determined that the landlord wasn’t beyond saving. He needed specific legal aid to get past his bump in the road. We connected him with a MassLandlords attorney and created the Massachusetts Landlord Defense Fund. We basically passed a basket around at a landlord picnic in his home town. The money collected would front the cost of the litigation. The landlord promised to pay us back.

A Successful Resolution

We can’t divulge the details of either the gang case or the other eviction. But we can say that both have been resolved successfully as of March 2016. The tenants are out. The units are rented. And what’s more, 100% of the funds contributed by volunteers have been repaid by the landlord. The Defense Fund is strong and ready for its next challenge.

Sincere appreciation is owed to the volunteers and attorney who contributed to his defense.

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Read more about the soon-to-be-infamous Meikle v Nurse at Mass Real Estate Law Blog.