Tenants’ rights policy considered by local lawmakers

Mayor Martin Walsh has announced a proposal that would increase tenants’ rights, according to a press release.

Walsh has sent the Jim Brooks Stabilization Act, a home rule petition, to the City Council for consideration. The measure will need to be approved by the City Council and the State House. The act would help protect residential tenants and former homeowners living in their homes post-foreclosure against arbitrary, unreasonable, discriminatory, or retaliatory evictions. The law would also ensure that tenants and former homeowners are aware of their rights under state law.

The petition also creates requirements for landlords to notify the City regarding any eviction. Landlords would be required to provide the City of Boston’s Office of Housing Stability a copy of any notice to quit, lease non-renewal letter, or notice of fixed term lease expiration within two days of serving the notice to the tenant. The Office of Housing Stability would then contact tenants by mail and notify them of their rights in the case of an eviction. If a landlord fails to notify the City of an eviction, it would void their right to proceed with the eviction.

“This legislation is just one piece of our larger, city-wide agenda to prevent displacement,” Walsh said, according to the press release. “It’s critical that we strike a good balance between protecting tenants’ rights and supporting them during challenging times, and recognizing the important role landlords play in the development and growth of our city.”

Walsh’s petition is a result of collaboration between the City, housing advocates, and local property owners, and is expected to be further refined before it is submitted to the State House. The petition outlines some conditions in which a landlord could evict a tenant or former homeowner living in their foreclosed unit, including:

  • Failing to pay rent
  • Violating the lease terms
  • Creating a nuisance or damaging the property
  • Using the unit for illegal purposes
  • Refusing to execute an extension/renewal of the current lease
  • Refusing the landlord access to make repairs
  • Having an unapproved subtenant
  • If the landlord wants to take possession of the unit for his or her own use or for the use or occupancy of his or her immediate family member(s) to occupy.
  • Former owner still living in a foreclosed home but refuses to pay reasonable rent

The petition contains several exemptions, such as for small landlords who are Massachusetts residents owning fewer than seven rental units. Temporary or transitional housing, such as substance abuse treatment and recovery programs, are also exempt from the proposed act.

The petition is named for Jim Brooks, a Roxbury community activist who died in April of this year.

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