Boston’s controversial rental registration and inspection ordinance will gentrify its lower-income neighborhoods. Cash-strapped owners will not be eligible for loans. They will be forced to sell cheap, go into bankruptcy, or simply abandon their buildings. Here’s why.
NO FINANCING IS AVAILABLE Banks will not lend money to cash-strapped owners who want to repair their non-owner-occupied properties to comply with the new ordinance. The only options these owners will have is to do a complete re-financing of their property or take out a second line of credit against their primary residence. No financing means cash-strapped owners will be in a serious crisis, forced to sell at a cheap price, forced into bankruptcy, or simply forced to abandon their buildings, even if they are tenant-occupied.
NO WAY TO DEAL WITH NONPAYING TENANTS The ordinance has no provision for evicting nonpaying tenants, yet the inspections will find enough code violations to allow tenants to withhold rent for months and months, putting extra financial burdens on owners who must do repairs. More owners will be forced to sell cheap, to go bankrupt, or to abandon their buildings.
GENTRIFICATION WILL KICK OUT POORER TENANTS Who will buy these buildings that cash-strapped owners will have to sell cheap? Higher-income investors who will have the money to fix them up. They will kick out lower-income tenants, fix up the buildings, and rent them to higher-income tenants. That’s gentrification.
Our goal is repeal
Boston Mayor-elect Marty Walsh said he would “do everything in my power to overturn this ordinance.”
To ensure he keeps his word, property owners need to contact him with their messages against the ordinance, while still contacting all the city councilors and new councilors.
A decision by the Boston City Council will be in the hands of the new council, which takes over on January 6.
Our goal to repeal the ordinance must first succeed at the Council level. The council must vote for its repeal before it goes to the mayor, and a two-thirds vote may be required, not a simple majority. To succeed in our repeal effort, property owners must focus intensely on all the city councilors including the new ones, from now until a Council vote, probably in January.
Call your City Councilors!
We have been very successful so far. We need to do everything again that we already have done. Call and email the Councilors. Talk to as many owners, friends, family members, and neighbors as possible. Talk to them all. Get them to take action, too. Get them to call or email the councilors. Contact info below.
Always remember, your calls and emails are working! We have a very good chance of winning this battle.
We must all ACT NOW. Call your City Councilors. Call the new Mayor. Contact information below.
You need to call your own District Councilor as well as all four At-Large Councilors, who all represent the whole city. The At-Large Councilors are at the top of the list below.
Send your emails to City.Council@boston.gov. This email address goes to all city councilors.
X = openly against ordinance
X Martin Walsh
The new Boston City Council
Send your emails to City.Council@ boston.gov. This one email address goes to ALL City Councilors.
In addition, call your own District Councilor as well as all four At-Large Councilors, who all represent the whole city. The At-Large Councilors are at the top of the list below.
Stephen Murphy, At Large
Ayanna Pressley, At Large
X Michael Flaherty, At-Large
Michelle Wu, At-Large
Salvatore LaMattina, District 1
X Bill Linehan, District 2
X Frank Baker, District 3
X Charles Yancey, District 4
X Timothy McCarthy, District 5
Matt O’Malley, District 6
X Tito Jackson, District 7
Josh Zakim, District 8
X Mark Ciommo, District 9
Use the following position statements as you wish in your messages.
Registration is also hated
Some owners are telling us that they hate the registration requirement most of all. Requiring everyone to report annually to the city AND pay a fee is a big step closer to requiring the rental property owners to get a license for each unit before they can rent it. That really puts a leash around our necks for anyone to yank on. Tenants could threaten or actually take action to get an owner to lose his or her license — on top of all the tricks up tenants’ sleeves in this state. A license would be acting as if our property is public property that we would have to pay for to be able to use it.
The fee, moreover, is a hidden tax taken out of the landlord’s pocket instead of equally out of everyone’s pocket. A fee is charged when a person wants to use something public, like the roads and highways when one gets an auto license or a fishing license to use lakes and rivers that are also public property. But Boston landlords are not getting anything they want by paying the new fee. It is a tax and it should be treated as a tax.
Unconstitutional. Grossly ineffective and wasteful. A targeted approach to truly unsafe properties would be much better.
Costly. Will push rents up, especially in poorer neighborhoods. The demand for code-perfect apartments — when many of the violations will be minor or cosmetic — will require major investment by owners in their lower-income properties where apartments are not code-perfect. This demand will have a significant impact on rents throughout the city, but it will be worst in lower-income neighborhoods where there are more violations generally of all types: serious, urgent, minor and cosmetic. To make all the required repairs AND pay the fees and fines will be difficult for both landlords and tenants in these neighborhoods. The city needs a realistic plan to deal with lower-income properties if it insists on these inspections.
The recent deck collapse at a Boston party makes these inspections important. The Council has a choice: Do a targeted approach to inspections, so that most of the dangerous decks will be identified in a year. OR Do a shotgun approach taking up to 10 years to hit all rental units — so that some of the dangerous decks will be identified in 7-10 years. The choice is obvious to the public, but apparently not to city officials.
Grossly ineffective and wasteful. It won’t work. The truly unsafe units are less likely to be registered. And even if they are registered, there is no way in the registration system to identify them, which should be the focus of the city’s concern.
Won’t identify the unsafe units. Even with 100% registration, the new program does not identify unsafe properties in a timely manner, before more people are hurt.. An inspection taking place sometime in the next 7 to 10 years is hardly a way to catch unsafe properties soon enough, like the fire in Allston last spring that tragically killed a 22-year-old Boston University student. Unsafe properties need to be identified and inspected as quickly as possible. The police do not find criminals by doing a house-to-house search (which would be unconstitutional). The vast majority of people are not criminals, just as the vast majority of apartments are not unsafe. Instead, the police look for and zero in on criminal activity. That’s how an inspection program should be run. Focus only on the unsafe properties and only on the truly serious and unsafe conditions. Safety can be achieved without high costs to owners that inevitably get passed on to tenants.
Will cause a rash of rent withholding across the city. Each inspection under the new ordinance will result in a report to tenants of code violations in their apartment and information that they can withhold rent. Some percentage of tenants will take advantage of this situation, withhold rent, block repairs, damage their apartments further — the free rent trick. This will happen across the city, but most often in lower-income housing. As a result, rental housing in general will be devalued, and city tax revenues will be reduced. This is a disaster for the city. It is a disaster for landlords, as the free rent trick always is.
Registration and fees alone are unconstitutional. Registration and fees — every year — imply that we have no right to rent our apartments. We will be forced to pay the city for the “privilege” to be a landlord. We will be subordinated to the city if we register and pay fees. The Constitution, not the city, gives us the right to buy, sell and rent our property. Registration and fees together threaten our livelihood and drive rents up in the process. We cannot continue to rent our properties unless the rents go up to cover the added costs.
To register and to pay a fee is exactly the way it is to get a license from the government to be a landlord. The Institute for Justice has successfully fought licensing programs in other occupations. Licensing is on the horizon if this program stays in power.
A much better approach. There are far better ways to target problem properties. Serious exterior violations seen from the street can identify buildings that likely have serious interior violations. The complaint record of ISD can also be used to target deficient properties. Pursued vigorously, these approaches will catch the seriously deficient apartments.
In addition, the ISD housing division needs to be reformed. It is presently biased against landlords, pursues cosmetic violations, does not prioritize violations in terms of danger to health and safety, does not return calls from landlords, refuses to cite tenants when it is obvious they are damaging their apartment or refusing to let the landlord in to make repairs, “throws the book” at some landlords and favors others, cites violations inconsistently, and gives legal advice to tenants on how to play the free rent trick. The list goes on. We do not believe ISD can be trusted with this massive new program.
Unconstitutional. We all have a right to privacy in our homes, including our tenants. Government inspectors entering our homes with no reasonable suspicion of violations are illegal under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and a similar right in the Massachusetts Constitution.
CALL AND EMAIL NOW! GET ALL YOUR FRIENDS, FAMILY AND NEIGHBORS TO ACT!
THIS IS URGENT. WE HAVE A GOOD CHANCE OF WINNING.
We need everyone to act. It is the only way it will work.