Beginning in the 1940’s prominent businessmen such as the late Israel Katz, Arthur LaRiviere and others organized to deal with the rental business challenges of the day. The focus was legislative, and this was to remain an important focus through to the present day.
In the mid 1960’s Leo Charbonneau and Ed Edison came in and called the group the Landlord’s Guild. This group functioned until 1970, when Irving Coven formally rebranded it as the “Rental Housing Association of Worcester County.” (This name is still reflected in groups like the Rental Housing Association of Greater Springfield and the Massachusetts Rental Housing Association.) The Worcester group developed cohesiveness through the oil embargo days of the late 1970’s, which were very challenging. Sudden increases in heating oil prices triggered rent increases for apartments with “utilities included,” and this in turn brought out counterproductive actions by tenant groups, including very serious talk of rent control. This movement was narrowly defeated here in Massachusetts as a state, although certain areas, like Cambridge, became subject to local rent control laws.
In the late 1970’s the name was changed to Worcester Property Owners Association. In the 1980’s under the guidance of Haskell Morin and Bob Sweeney, it grew to one of the largest organizations of its kind. In the late 1980’s WPOA presidents Irene Chiavalloti and JoAn Geissler worked to overturn rent control in Cambridge. They joined with the Mass Rental Housing Association (MRHA) and other landlord groups all over the state. Rent control was overturned in 1994.
Without a need for urgent political action, the WPOA developed a focus on education, legal compliance, and operational efficiency. Bills presented to the state legislature without landlord input were dealt with as they came up.
Beginning in 2010, the organization began to revitalize its management structure. What they had was adequate to continue operations but it was not a good platform for growth. Processes became streamlined, services started to go digital, and membership funds were reallocated from costly print services to new benefits.
One of the major costs the WPOA incurred was the maintenance of a private eviction list for Worcester County. For a period of time this list was published online at HousingCourtSearch. That site became no longer maintained when, after much hopeful waiting, the Commonwealth made these records available online at MassCourts.org. This facilitated a number of changes, including relocation to a better meeting space and food at meetings, among other things.
The organization was restructured with the help of New Leaf Legal, a Cambridge firm. The new bylaws were constructed so as to give the organization a managerial foundation for growth. Shortly after this, plans were put in place to develop a new website. What resulted was MassLandlords.net, a site offering services to landlords within and outside of Worcester county alike.