September 2009

A bill at the State Legislature to give “housing rights” to alleged victims of domestic violence would place impossible burdens on small landlords in particular. The bill – House Bill No. 1747 – would block eviction of any self-claimed victim of domestic violence, stop rent increases, and allow non-victims to easily abuse the law and get the same “housing rights.”
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SPOA is urging all property owners to contact their State Legislators and express their views on the bill. See contact information below.

Losing control of our properties

H.1747 would block eviction of any alleged victim of domestic violence because of any acts connected to domestic violence. That means owners cannot evict a tenant household where loud fights and property damage related to domestic violence happen regularly.

All of us – owners and other tenants in the same building – would have to tolerate the noise and property damage involved. The “quiet enjoyment” of other tenants (which owners are legally obligated to provide to all tenants) would be violated, and owners could do nothing about it. The other tenants in a building could sue the owner or move out mid-lease (or both), leaving an unrentable apartment. Owners would be stuck with no rent coming in from vacant apartments.

If owners cannot evict for property damage or for disturbing the quiet enjoyment of other tenants, H.1747 would drive small property owners out of business.

Bill leads to rent control

H.1747 would lead to a kind of rent control, in order to block owners from evicting tenants by raising rents.
If owners cannot evict self-claimed victims of domestic violence, tenants can take owners to court for any rent increases that tenants claim are too high – and let judges decide whether the owners are raising rents “unfairly” as a roundabout way of wrongly evicting a victim of domestic violence. If the courts did not do this, owners could get around the bill just by raising rents too high. Even if a judge decides a “fair” rent, it is still rent control.

Fearing a huge court battle if they raise rents on self-claimed victims of domestic violence, owners will be hesitant to raise rents more than very small amounts. This is rent control by intimidation.

Spreading its mischief to non-victims

Finally, H.1747 could be easily used by non-victims as well as victims to block eviction or stop rent increases. All a tenant needs to do under the bill is declare that he or she is a victim of domestic violence – and then he or she gets all the protections against eviction and rent increases provided by this bill. The alleged violence could be as simple as a boyfriend or girlfriend slapping their partner or raising an arm against them or speaking angrily at them – or nothing at all. No statement of events needs to be provided. No one can investigate the claim. It is self-claimed. The alleged victim just asserts that they are a victim and that the alleged event occurred in the past six months. Thus H.1747 is easily used and abused by non-victims.

There already is a serious problem with false accusations of violence in domestic disputes made by one partner in order to get a restraining order to punish the other partner. H.1747 will only increase the opportunities for false accusations, but this time the false accusations will be used against small property owners.

Please take ACTION now! Contact your legislators.

Please call, email, or write the Chairs of the Housing Committee (see below) and your own state senator and representative (see below for instructions).

Senator Susan Tucker
Chair, Housing Committee
State House, Room 424
Boston, MA 02133
617-722-1612
Susan.Tucker@state.ma.us

Kevin Honan
Chair, Housing Committee
State House, Room 38
Boston, MA 02133
617-722-2470
Rep.KevinHonan@hou.state.ma.us

To find out who your state senator and representative are, go to www.wheredoivotema.com and fill in your street address. Look for “Senate in General Court” and “Rep in General Court.” These are your state senator and representative.