1.) The courts have already stopped evictions until no sooner than April 21. This could and should be extended as the crisis unfolds.
2.) We agree with the court’s nuanced approach. This legislation is harmful where it oversteps the court’s decisions to permit cases to proceed on emergency basis (e.g., restraining orders) and unnecessary.
3.) The bill would make it a criminal offense for a lenders-turned-housing provider to “initiate a summary process action”, punishable by a fine of $5,000 or six months in jail or both. Such actions are already halted.
4.) The bill sends a signal that rent need not be paid even if we can afford to pay it, contributing to the economic collapse.
5.) The jail provision in particular is encouraging violence, harassment, and hate speech against housing providers and lenders, particularly on Facebook and Twitter. Under current and proposed MA law, it would be more legal to willfully disregard quarantine than it would be for a landlord to ask for rent owed, if this bill were to pass.
6.) There are 70,000 mom and pop housing providers in Massachusetts, the majority of whom are senior, who would be disproportionately impacted by this legislation, and likely won’t hear about this legislation in time. Rents are already going unpaid.
7.) Housing providers expect to see no relief from a.) unemployment (ineligible), b.) non-mortgage housing expense (not recognized in this bill); and c.) loans to employers (we typically only employ 1099’s like plumbers, electricians).
8.) Housing providers need rent to maintain housing and hire 1099’s, especially plumbers for no-heat calls and other emergencies, who are likewise ineligible under current relief plans.
9.) Jail could be a death sentence for a mom and pop lender or housing provider during this pandemic. We are already trying to empty or deal with both jails and homeless shelters. No one should go to jail if it can be avoided.
10.) An alternative exists: establish an emergency basic income or a guaranty of all obligations for every Commonwealth resident. The legislature could also authorize the courts to further extend delays as needed at their sole discretion for reinforcement.