There’s a bill in front of the legislature that should upset everyone who touches Massachusetts real estate, including good renters. H.4356, the HOMES Act, would seal eviction records. The same text is also in H.4138, the governor’s housing bond bill.

The stated intent is to help renters who have been evicted by hiding this on their next rental application. Past poverty should not be held against an applicant today. All court records would be sealed by request, starting with “no fault” cases. After a time, “nonpayment” cases would be sealed. And after that, “fault” cases would be sealed.

A “no fault” eviction does not mean the renter was blameless. It just means the landlord couldn’t meet standards for evidence in court. Consider the case Gwendolyn Property Management v. Goodwin, Johnson. The landlord hired an attorney to file a “for cause” eviction against renters smoking cannabis in a no-smoking property. Kids with growing minds were being hurt. Four witnesses went to court to testify. It should have been a slam dunk. Instead, the judge threw out the case as hearsay. A “no fault” case filed separately eventually got those renters out.

Every time a landlord takes a renter to court, something has gone very wrong. It’s a myth that landlords like or benefit from eviction. Half of all court cases now take 80 days; 10 percent take 213 days. It’s much better – if a renter will work with you – to sign roommates, make a payment plan, or help them relocate.

In addition to sealing records, the bill would create a pathway to cancel up to $700 million of prior judgments and all judgments going forward.

It would cause landlords statewide to raise application minimums for income, credit and other screening metrics.

It would ignore the clear alternative: make evictions like convictions, a protected class status evaluated case-by-case.

I urge everyone – especially renters – to find their representative and senator and tell them you oppose eviction sealing. It’s good that landlords can screen tenants based on eviction records. Ninety-six percent of renters avoid court. The other 4 percent have explaining to do.

— Doug Quattrochi, executive director, MassLandlords

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Letter to the Editor: Eviction Sealing Bill Hurts Good Renters

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 2 min