Massachusetts has a chance to make its eviction system a little more humane. Unfortunately, some landlords don’t want that to happen. The legislature should still move forward with the idea. 

During the pandemic, a temporary law called Chapter 257 paused eviction cases in situations where a tenant had fallen behind on rent while the state was processing the tenant’s application for rental assistance. 

Lawmakers and Gov. Maura Healey unfortunately allowed this measure to expire March 31, but the House’s budget proposal would revive it and make it permanent. 

When word of its inclusion spread last week, the Small Property Owners Association regrettably sought to mobilize opposition to the move, casting it as “crazy” and saying it caused “tremendous hardship” to small landlords when combined with slow progress through eviction courts. 

Massachusetts is in the grips of a long-running housing crisis, and everyone needs to contribute to its solution.  

The research is clear that evictions create a huge set of social harms; most responsible landlords try to avoid them and some big ones like WinnCompanies have put extensive programs in place to make them a tool of last resort. And while decades of underbuilding rental housing are the ultimate cause of a lot of the financial misery tenants experience, it will take decades to fix that.  

In backing a delay like this the real estate industry can make a meaningful contribution to an interim solution without crossing its red lines like rent control. In not doing so, the industry scores another public relations own-goal at a time when its reputation is suffering. 

It’s true that, if state bureaucrats don’t do their jobs expeditiously, a revived Chapter 257 could leave some landlords holding the bag for multiple months as an application is processed. And, landlords could still find that the state won’t give enough money to make them whole even after that wait. 

By opposing Chapter 257’s revival, the real estate industry will be yet again pulling up the drawbridge instead of working cooperatively towards a better solution: a housing system where providers are paid reliably and adequately and tenants have some modest security that sudden financial misfortune won’t see them become homeless.  

But let this be a warning to legislators, too: Chapter 257 won’t be enough without substantially more money for the RAFT emergency rental aid and MRVP housing voucher programs. Otherwise, thousands tenants will still be getting evicted through no fault of their own, just at a slower rate and at the cost of thousands of financially burdened small landlords. 

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An Eviction Protection Real Estate Should Support

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 2 min