About SPOA

The group that fights 
     to protect small landlords
          & their rights in Massachusetts
On this page:
The Small Property Owners Association - SPOA
Brief History
Why SPOA is Successful

The SPOA Newsletter:
Keeping small owners INFORMED!
Who Creates the "War"
Between Landlords & Tenants?

Small Property Owners 

Known as SPOA, we are the largest rental property owner association in Massachusetts and the only one  that represents small property owners exclusively.

Who are “small property owners”? We are small landlords, “mom and pop” landlords, families who live in our own two- or three-family homes, or families that run part-time or full-time rental businesses without hired management. We may hire carpenters, plumbers, and electricians, but we do all the rest ourselves, and we suffer when things go wrong. We own 75% of all rental housing in Massachusetts!

Some of the most antiquated, harsh anti-landlord laws in the country are in Massachusetts. From the start, SPOA aimed to change laws, we did it, and we shall continue!  

If you are a small property owner, 
     you need to join SPOA!

And SPOA needs you to join us!

Alone we can do nothing. Together we will win!

Our Custom

We don’t spell out ‘SPOA,’ we say ‘SPO-uh.’  
Everybody knows us by this one-word name.


Brief History

SPOA began as the well-known group of small Cambridge landlords who fought to outlaw rent control in Massachusetts. Starting with a dozen members in 1987, we grew fast under oppressive rent control. In 1994, SPOA launched the statewide ballot referendum known as “Question 9” when the entire state voted to end rent control. That huge victory, the first time in the nation that rent control was ever voted out, made us a major statewide organization, and we have grown ever since.

SPOA organized two more defeats of rent control. In 2001, Boston owners flooded their City Councilors with thousands of calls and emails, and the Council rejected Mayor Menino’s rent control proposal. Now Menino won’t touch the issue.

In 2003, Cambridge voters DEFEATED a rent control proposal in a citywide referendum. SPOA’s vigorous campaign convinced a landslide 61% to vote NO. The very city that once believed fervently in rent control and is know to be ultra-liberal was convinced by SPOA that rent control would harm the city, as virtually all economists agree.

Since 1995, SPOA has lobbied hard for a mandatory rent escrow law to end the “free rent trick,” that eviction-delay tactic that devastates small owners. In 2002, the State Legislature nearly passed it. We continue this fight.

More about the history of SPOA’s victory over rent control



General Goals

To be the voice of small property owners.

To make the ownership of a few apartments be safe, profitable and respected as a business.

To end rent control everywhere. To show that rent control unfairly burdens owners and fails completely as a housing policy.

To end tenant free-loading and irresponsibility that is encouraged by eviction and habitability laws.

To end the anti-landlord, anti-property agenda of the tax-funded legal services.

To end costly, ineffective lead paint abatement and institute a sane, parent-friendly approach to environmental lead safety.

To encourage the growth and affordability of private rental housing.

Specific Goals

A good rent escrow law is still tops on SPOA’s agenda. Every important new law takes time. We are close to victory, but we have strong opponents – the tax-funded legal services lawyers that represent non-rent-paying tenants for free while we pay lawyers $$$ an hour.

Growing SPOA’s membership is critical to developing the political clout to get laws passed favorable to us.

SPOA is currently fighting to get a workable tenant water billing law, one that allows ALL owners to transfer water bills to tenants.

SPOA is also involved in reforming the State Sanitary Code and the lead paint law, in fighting pointless pre-rental inspections and other statewide and local dangers. 

Click here to learn about membership in SPOA 
and how to join us.

Click here to go directly to our online membership 
sign-up page.


Why SPOA is successful

We are not old-fashioned lobbyists.

We don’t negotiate deals behind closed doors. As small owners we can’t and don’t give big donations to lawmakers to buy them off.

We use our power as voters.

Many small property owners live in every city and town in this state.

When a lot of us call or write or email our legislators, they listen to us as voters.

Because no amount of money works if they don’t get the votes to be re-elected.

It’s hardly a secret, but our legislators rarely hear from the people who vote for them. So when they get 25 or 50 or 100 voters saying how they feel about a law being debated, they know a lot more people in their district believe the same way – and that tells them how to vote.

After each Boston City Councilor got over 1,000 messages from the Boston owners that SPOA mobilized, the Council voted down Mayor Tom Menino’s rent control proposal. “It was a no-brainer,” said one Councilor.

Our strength is in our numbers.

As SPOA gets more members, SPOA becomes stronger!
Every person who joins SPOA makes us stronger!


Please take a moment now to join SPOA
Just $50 a year

Click here to learn about membership in SPOA 
and how to join us.

Click here to go directly to our online membership 
sign-up page.


The SPOA Newsletter

is packed with the latest on:

§   Legislation affecting small property owners

§   Stories of owners with problems that better laws would solve

§   Action Alerts: what owners can do right now to influence lawmakers and how they vote on bills affecting us

§   Articles on housing policy: what’s happening locally and nationally on issues that could affect us, like mold and Section 8 vouchers

§   Be Aware Reports: how to protect yourself against anti-discrimination laws, the lead paint law, bad tenants, and more

A sample of recent topics from the newsletter  

The Cat Lady strikes again and again!
Remember the infamous Cat Lady on Beacon Hill? With dozens of dead cats and frozen cats and feces all over the place, Boston inspectors never cited her. They cited the owner for minor defects that the Cat Lady complained about so she could live rent-free. Now three more owners report struggling to get rid of her, and the government does nothing.

A Mandatory Rent Escrow law:
Our big challenge

Two years ago, SPOA almost got the State Legislature to pass a rent escrow law that would require tenants to escrow their rent whenever they claim they are “withholding” their rent for code violations. That law would stop non-paying tenants from playing the “free rent trick” where they call the housing inspector and then block the owner’s attempts to repair code violations as long as they can, then skip out and pay nothing, even when the judge says they owe all or most of the unpaid rent. Legal services lawyers fight tooth and nail against every rent escrow bill. SPOA needs more members to increase its political clout to ensure we get a good rent escrow bill passed.

Tenant water billing:
Small owners couldn’t do it

The big landlords and legal services lawyers (the tax-funded lawyers that defend tenants for free against eviction) worked out a deal behind closed doors that would require replumbing older houses and installing submeters – way too expensive for small owners –  before owners could bill tenants for water. SPOA launched a massive phone calling campaign and stopped the bill. A much cheaper option is widely used across the U.S.


  • Pre-rental inspections: waste of time & resources

  • Health inspectors want a rent escrow law

  • Section 8 rents are cut, shocking small owners

  • Menino fires inspection chief after SPOA complains

  • Amherst landlords: register now, rent control later?

  • Watertown tries to stop multi-family construction

  • ‘Nonprofit’ housing: putting private owners out of business

  • Low-cost ways to stop a child’s exposure to lead

  • Tenant advocates still want rent control

$50 to join SPOA. Do it now!

Click here to learn about membership in SPOA 
and how to join us.

Click here to go directly to our online membership 
sign-up page.


Who creates the ‘war’
between landlords & tenants? 

NOT landlords! NOT tenants! Tenants are our customers, our neighbors, even our friends. We don’t hate them. We don’t ever want to evict them unless absolutely necessary. We want peace with our tenants

The “war” is created by small groups of tenant activists, like those who occupy the tiny office, pictured above, of the “Eviction Free Zone” in Cambridge. Boston has three similar groups, and others exist in the state. They all work hand-in-hand with tax-funded legal services lawyers to preserve antiquated laws that make rental property ownership very difficult at times. Their true goal: to turn our private rental housing into “socially owned” housing, that is, owned by tax-supported nonprofit groups or directly by the government, an approach that fails. 

SPOA does not fight against tenants, but against these misguided advocates who rose to power in the bygone 1960s era when most anti-landlord laws were first passed. We aim to bring the spirit of welfare reform to landlord-tenant law.


Dunk the landlord?


“Dunk the landlord” by hitting the “rent” lever DOWN.  Think about it. In politically correct America, where no one can mock or stereotype anyone for their race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, the ONLY  stereotype allowed to appear  in effigy is a landlord. SPOA works to put a sympathetic name and face on “small property owners.” And we succeed!