Our most powerful weapon is grassroots activism, the voices of many small property owners speaking directly to our elected officials about pending legislation and proposals that will help us or hurt us.
This page tells you:
-The current issues and what can you do
A top priority
SPOA considers passage of a rent escrow law to be a top priority. An escrow law for Massachusetts would stop the “free rent trick,” one of the most serious abuses that can affect any rental property owner. Stopping the free rent trick would begin to erase the hostile, anti-landlord atmosphere found in our courts and inspectional system.
The State Legislature is getting ready to pass (or not pass) a mandatory rent escrow law some time during the current legislative session. NOW is the time to write or contact your elected representatives and urge them to vote for an effective mandatory rent escrow law! The bill SPOA is supporting is House Bill No. 1284 (or “H.1284” for short). Refer to this number when you write your state legislators.
we need a rent escrow law
As long as an apartment has unrepaired violations, a nonpaying tenant cannot be evicted. So, naturally, in order to delay eviction and live rent-free, the tenant often refuses to let the landlord or repairman in to make repairs. Sometimes the tenant damages the apartment and creates new code violations, repeating this process as long as he can get away with it. The owner must simultaneously push forward with eviction and attempt arduously to make repairs, all while receiving no rent. The tenant’s actions delay eviction, and when a judge finally orders the eviction, the tenant moves on, having lived rent-free for months and months on end. While most or all of the “withheld” rent is legally owed to the landlord, he never gets it.
How a rent escrow law would work
The solution to this abuse of rent withholding is a rent escrow law. Currently, rent escrowing is totally at the discretion of judges, it involves a long hearing, and it’s almost never ordered. A mandatory rent escrow law would require any tenant who is claiming rent withholding to pay the withheld rent to the court month by month until code violations are repaired. After repairs are done, either the landlord and tenant agree on how the escrowed rent should be divided, or a judge orders a fair settlement. In most cases, the owner will get back most of the escrowed withheld rent. But the most important part of mandatory rent escrowing is that those nonpaying tenants who do not escrow can be promptly evicted for nonpayment of rent. Although nonpayment evictions will still take about three months, and owners will lose about three months of rent, much-longer-delayed evictions and the free rent trick will be stopped.
to learn more
you can do
Writing or talking to your elected officials
Who. In general, you should always write your own elected officials, your State Senator and State Representative. To find who your State Senator and State Representative are, go to: www.wheredoivotema.com/bal/myelectioninfo.php. Follow the steps. You are looking for “Senate in General Court” and “Rep in General Court.”
The State House address for all legislators is State House, Room___, Boston, MA 02133. You should address them as “The Honorable (title and name of person)”
It is also important to contact the State Legislature’s leadership. In other words, the Senate President, the Speaker of the House, and the Chairpersons of the Committee. These people are critical in getting bills to move forward or to stop them. They must be convinced of the merits of our position.
Senate President Therese Murray at:
Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo at:
Judiciary Committee Co-Chair Senator
Cynthia Creem at:
Judiciary Committee Co-Chair
Representative Eugene O’Flaherty
How. Should you write, fax or email a message? Should you phone call? A written letter is always the best. It shows you took the time; it shows your commitment on the issue. Faxing a letter is almost as good, and may be the only way to get your message through fast enough before a critical deadline vote. Emailing is, of course, fast and easy, and every email received by an elected official is read and tallied as for or against a particular issue. A phone call works for those without email.
1. Always be courteous and keep your message short.
2. Identify your topic or concern at the start, including a reference to the bill number, if possible.
3. State your position for or against it, and ask your legislator to take the same position you favor.
4. Explain briefly in your own words the reasons why you take the position you do.
5. If you have had a personal experience that leads you to your position, tell your story briefly.
6. End by again asking your elected official to please vote for or against the issue you are writing about.
7. Give your name and street address so they can identify you as a constituent.
Writing your Representatives
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