URGENT: Contact Your Senator to Oppose 193 S.2834 Section 48 Eviction Sealing, Debt Cancellation

An eviction sealing and judgment cancellation section has added to the Housing Bond bill by the senate committee on ways and means. You can either make a large donation to us or you can call your senator. Inaction is not an option. This is being voted on as early as Thursday June 27. If we can get it out of the senate bill, we don't need to contact the house.

S.2834 An Act Relative to the Affordable Homes Act.

Eviction sealing and judgment debt cancellation would:

  • Create a pathway to cancel up to $700 million of prior judgments and all judgments going forward;
  • Make it impossible to identify applicants recently evicted for smoking, noise, violence or other cases filed "no cause stated" (this is sometimes called "no fault"). "No cause stated" eviction is used when people are afraid to testify or when a landlord can't meet court standards for evidence.
  • Require journalists, law enforcement and researchers get court permission to look at evictions.
  • Cause landlords statewide to raise application minimums for income, credit and other screening metrics.
  • Make the courts hear every eviction twice.
  • Move us away from transparency and due process.
  • Ignore the clear alternative: make eviction records like convictions, a protected class status evaluated case-by-case.

The bill is bad for good renters. You should talk to your senator. And you should ask your renters to do the same. You will not be able to screen new residents adequately if this bill passes.

For your convenience and speed of action the talking points are reproduced below. If you have questions before calling, reply or call 774-314-1896 and leave a voicemail, we will help you prepare.

Please act now,
Doug Quattrochi
Executive Director
MassLandlords, Inc.

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Our elected officials depend on a connection with their constituents to get reelected. If they aren't aware of what's good and bad, they will make bad choices. You may be the only person who is calling them about an issue. Every voice matters.

Here is the order of contact:

  • Call. Have a one-on-one conversation with an aide if possible. Leave a voicemail.
  • Write a quick letter. Print mail takes time and money and shows your level of commitment.
  • Tweet or Facebook mention your representative on social media.
  • Email should be last on your list. Spam filters make it less likely your email will arrive. Email is free and easy and shows little commitment.

1a. Find your Senator

https://malegislature.gov/search/findmylegislator

First call the senator where you live. If you have time, also call the senator where each property you own is located.

1b. Recommendation: print or keep this email open

Prepare to have the conversation in a flexible order.

2. Call and Start by Asking Permission to Share Your Viewpoint:

You probably will be put through to the legislator's aide. This is OK. The aide will tell the legislator what you said. Adjust these to reflect reality:

  1. "I'm a MassLandlords member/participant..." or "I'm a landlord..." "...living/working in your district."
  2. "I'm ________ (insert your own adjective but do not swear: concerned; outraged; angry) about S.2834 the Housing Bond Bill, Section 48. Can I tell you about it?" (listen for their response; if it's a bad time, schedule a call back.

Switch to email if no one answers or there is no voicemail.

3. Acknowledge their Current Position:

The list of bill eviction sealing cosponsors may have your senator on it:

H4356 Cosponsors. (Yes, this is a different bill number. They renumber bills instead of using version numbers to make it harder for us to do what we are doing. Focus on S.2834.)

If so, "I realize you have cosponsored this and I appreciate you looking out for renters, but this bill is a serious mistake."

"I have 6 reasons why this bill is a disaster."

(There was no way to make these talking points shorter. Eviction sealing cuts the legs out from under huge sections of current law and practice, but most legislators do not have the expertise needed to see how.)

 

4. Share Official Talking Points.

  1. Say "One:" Eviction sealing is unreasonable.
    • It seals the worst evictions first.
    • Renter advocates say landlords evict renters for "no fault" when we renovate or sell properties. That's not true. What landlord would spend tens of thousands of dollars and waste a year of their life trying to evict a renter who was not a problem? If we need a unit back, we work with the renter to find them a new place. If we go to court, there's a problem.
    • The actual legal term for a "no fault" eviction in the courts is "no cause stated."
    • We use "no cause stated" eviction when witnesses are afraid to testify, or when judges hold landlords to impossible standards of evidence. See Gwendolyn Property Management vs. Goodwin (2021, 21H85SP001694). In this case, a for-cause eviction was brought against smokers in a no-smoking building. Four witnesses testified. The judge threw out their testimony, saying wrongly that the witnesses didn't know smoke when they saw and smelled it. A no-cause-stated eviction later got the renters out.
  2. Say "Two": Eviction sealing is unfunded.
    • Each year the Housing Court accepts approximately 40,000 cases.
    • There are up to 800,000 cases with judgments still in effect. Of these, approximately 445,000 would be sealable on day one.
    • What tenant-from-hell wouldn't want to seal their record? Or if innocent renters are really hauled into court daily, what innocent renter wouldn't want to seal their record, too? Every renter will do this as soon as they hear about it.
    • There is no way to seal records without notice to the parties, who may contest it. That creates a hearing process.
    • It's not unreasonable to estimate that this will double or triple court volume and eviction duration.
    • When the courts are clogged, landlords resort to other sometimes less fair ways, housing becomes unproductive and rents increase to cover the failure.
  3. Say "Three:" Eviction sealing hurts good renters.
    • Each year, 96% of renters avoid court. On a rental application, landlords can verify this because the court records are public.
    • If eviction sealing takes away court records, a clean looking eviction record becomes meaningless. It could look clean but really it's a bad record that got sealed. We won't know.
    • Landlords will rely more on income, credit and other factors.
    • Renters will be rejected at a higher rate. Eviction sealing takes away a primary way for good renters to earn points on an application.
  4. (If the person to whom you are speaking is unresponsive, eyes glazed over, catatonic, stop here.)
  5. Say "I have just three more quick points, if you have time? Number Four": Eviction sealing hurts Massachusetts democracy and self-governance.
    • Journalists would need court permission to report on a sealed case.
    • Researchers would need court permission to access sealed data.
    • This is the stuff of dictatorship.
    • Remember evictions affect only 4% of tenancies each year, but eviction sealing closes off up to 100% of court records.
  6. Say "Five": My last objection, eviction sealing hurts housing.
    • This bill would create a pathway to administratively cancel judgments.
    • The protections in place are far from adequate, especially where renters act in bad faith.
    • There will be no penalty for being evicted and no way a housing provider can ever be repaid.
    • Naturally occurring affordable housing will disappear.
  7. Say "My last point": There is a clear alternative.
    • Make prior evictions a protected class status like convictions.
    • Landlords would then have to treat evictions on a case-by-case basis.
    • We could be sued for discrimination.
    • This costs nothing and does not burden good renters or the courts.

5. Probably there's no time to share your personal story

If there is any kind of back-and-forth, you can share what kind of places you operate, where they are. Probably they will not be engaged.

6. Listen. Talk. Finally ask, "Please amend this bill by removing Section 48."

7. Fill out our Response Form: https://masslandlords.net/grassroots or email us that you had the conversation (hello@masslandlords.net).

8. Forward these talking points to 3 to 10 people

You probably know a housing provider or two who hasn't been paying attention. Now is the time to get them to pay attention.

 

 

Dos and Don'ts for Talking with Elected Officials

DO

  • Humanize yourself: For example, talk about how you helped a renter in the past.
  • Stick mostly or entirely to the talking points prepared by MassLandlords.
  • Allow the Rep or Senator to start by inviting you to share what's on your mind.
  • Learn what the Rep or Senator is interested in, and which committees they're assigned to.
  • Use MassLandlords data to present the need for change. Or share a personal story.
  • Relate the problem to someone or some place in their home district.
  • Ask their position and why.
  • Be even-handed when discussing judges or other public officials.
  • If we know their record, ask why they voted a certain way.
  • If you don't know the answer to their question, say "I don't know" and offer to have MassLandlords follow up.
  • Talk to Reps and Senators who are not on the "landlord side;" you can lessen their opposition.
  • Get to know the staff, their names and backgrounds.
  • Thank them for helping us in the past, if they have.
  • Leave them with a clear understanding of what you wanted.
  • Leave them looking forward to their next meeting with MassLandlords.

DON'T

  • Don't bring up too many issues.
  • Don't bring up issues unrelated to MassLandlords.
  • Don't threaten, pressure, beg, or attack.
  • Don't raise your voice or do anything else to put them on the defensive.
  • Don't overstate the case or repeat yourself.
  • Don't expect them to understand anything about rental properties.
  • Don't be derailed by smokescreens or dodging the question.
  • Don't promise things you can't. Never speak for the association.
  • Don't be afraid to take a position for yourself.
  • Don't shy away from meeting with Reps or Senators who are known to be pro-tenant.
  • Don't be offended if you can only meet with staff.
  • Don't be turned off by a staffer who looks young or inexperienced. They may be young, but they have the ear of their rep or senator.
  • Don't leave them hoping never to encounter MassLandlords again.

 

Contact Your Senator Now.

We stopped this in the house! Eviction sealing and debt cancellation is bad for housing, renters and democracy. Oppose Section 48 of S.2834 the "Housing Bond Bill".

Find My Senator

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