By Kimberly Rau, MassLandlords, Inc.
The Tenancy Preservation Program (TPP) is a homelessness prevention program that acts as a neutral party between landlord and tenant. It attempts to find solutions for disabled renters who are facing eviction because of disability-related behavior.
TPP specialists work with landlords, tenants and housing courts to attempt to find solutions that can preserve a tenancy while addressing issues that put the tenancy in jeopardy.
Who is Eligible for the Tenancy Preservation Program?
To be eligible for TPP, a renter must have a disability and be at risk for eviction due to lease violations related to their disability. For example, a tenant who suffers from a hoarding disorder may be evicted for failure to maintain clean or sanitary conditions, or repeatedly blocking egresses. TPP may be able to connect that person with resources to help address the problem. Or an elderly renter with dementia may forget to pay the rent, even though they have the money. TPP may be able to connect the tenant with someone who can help them pay their bills.
The household must be able to document it is at risk for eviction by showing a notice to quit. If they reside in public housing, the tenant may also show a notice for lease violation.
Finally, the tenancy must be able to be preserved. This means that the tenant can afford their rent, and that there is not a move-out agreement in place (or that the landlord is willing to suspend the agreement if TPP is involved). It also means that all parties are willing to participate in the program.
Families with disabled children are also eligible for TPP if they meet program criteria.
How Does the Tenancy Preservation Program Work?
When someone is connected with the Tenancy Preservation Program, specialists review the situation. They look at why the tenant is facing eviction and develop a treatment plan involving whatever services are needed to preserve the tenancy. TPP will visit with tenants and monitor the case for as long as necessary.
TPP specialists have three points of action. The first is to resolve the issues related to the tenancy. This means making sure tenants can remain in their housing without committing further lease violations. If the tenancy cannot be preserved, the second action would be to help the renter find appropriate housing.
Neither of those options may be possible if the tenant is unwilling or unable to fix the issue or move. In that case, the TPP specialist’s third action would be to contact homeless outreach workers to ensure they are in contact with the tenant when the eviction happens.
How Does Someone Apply for the Tenancy Preservation Program?
A TPP brochure states that the program assists approximately 500 households annually. It operates across the state, in five geographic regions that correspond to the state’s housing court departments.
The tenancy preservation program works primarily with the housing court to assess the situation as a neutral party. TPP also acts in an advisory role for judges, who must consider solutions and reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities, including substance use issues. Therefore, most people who are referred to TPP will be referred by the housing court. TPP may become involved as soon as a notice to quit is issued or may not step in until later in the process.
If you know or suspect that your tenant is violating their lease because of a disability, let your attorney know. They can confidentially address the court and possibly get a TPP referral. Outside parties may also refer a tenant to TPP if they suspect a problem.
What is Considered a “Good” Treatment Plan for Preserving Someone’s Tenancy?
Under the tenancy preservation program, tenants and landlords are encouraged to find a treatment plan that will work for all parties involved. The primary goal is to preserve the renter’s housing. But the renter must also address the issues that caused their housing to be in jeopardy in the first place.
Under the TPP, a good, acceptable treatment plan has four criteria. The plan must be likely to address the tenancy issues that are putting the renter at risk of eviction. It must be acceptable to the tenant. It must be acceptable to the landlord. And, finally, it must be acceptable to the court. This means the tenant must be willing to work toward fixing the issue and the landlord must be willing to accept the plan.
This presumes that the tenancy issue is one that does not put the safety of the renter or others at risk. There are times when a good solution that meets all the above criteria may not be possible.
What If We Can’t Come to an Agreement Regarding Rental Issues?
Sometimes, an agreement with TPP can’t be reached. This may be because the tenant is not willing to make changes. Or it may be because the tenant’s behavior that jeopardized the tenancy it not likely to improve and puts others at risk. In these cases, TPP will work with the tenant to find alternative living arrangements.
For instance, a person who lives alone and floods their apartment or leaves the stove on because of their advanced dementia may be safer in a memory care facility. Someone whose issues are the result of substance use and who is not able to stop using on their own may be better served by a residential rehabilitation facility. TPP will work with the tenant to find a solution that allows them to leave the rental, but also avoid becoming homeless.
Disability is a protected class in Massachusetts, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have options if one of your renters is acting in a way that is harmful to themselves or others. In the same way that RAFT can help tenants who are not able to afford the rent, the tenancy preservation program may be able to help you and your tenant come to an agreement that keeps everyone safe and housed. You can read the full TPP operations manual here.