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Small Housing Providers File Lawsuit Challenging Massachusetts Eviction Moratorium

Jul 1, 2020

A seminole lawsuit has requested that the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court overturn the current eviction moratorium. This case is developing as the state government considers extending the moratorium, which would cause immense losses for landlords and property owners across Massachusetts.

The eviction moratorium prohibits housing providers from starting eviction cases or even sending out a notice to quit. Since April 20, 2020, the moratorium has halted almost every current and future eviction case in the state. While this action protects renters, it causes direct harm to those who earn their living by renting out their properties.

Marie Baptiste, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit challenging the moratorium, is a nurse who moved to the United States from Haiti. She also earns income from her Randolph rental property; but her tenants now owe her around $19,000 in back rent. Ms. Baptiste reports that her tenants will not communicate with her, and because of the moratorium, she has no options for collecting the money. If this act is extended, she must continue renting to these tenants for at least another year.

The lawsuit involves a second plaintiff, Mitch Matorin, who is in a similar situation. Mr. Matorin owns a rental property in Worcester and is also owed a significant amount of money in back rent, but the eviction case will remain pending until the moratorium ends. These are far from the only stories of rental property owners in Massachusetts who are struggling. Thousands of housing providers are barely staying afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic; and many will not be able to recover from the financial crisis.

The lawsuit attempts to put a stop to the moratorium, which they believe is unconstitutional. They cite four violations of constitutional rights:

  1. The right to petition.
  2. The right of free speech.
  3. The right to just compensation for seizure of property.
  4. An unconstitutional impairment of contracts.

During this pandemic, property owners like Ms. Baptiste and Mr. Matorin must continue to pay the mortgages, taxes, utilities, and insurance for their rental properties. The moratorium deprives them of the income that would allow them to fulfill these obligations. For as long as the moratorium continues housing providers will be unfairly impacted by this system. (removed 1 , in this paragraph)

The lawsuit was filed in the Suffolk Superior Court, and a hearing will take place on July 30. Plaintiff’s lawyers hope that this case will encourage the Massachusetts governor and legislators to consider rental property owners when they decide whether or not to extend the eviction moratorium.

At Dalton & Finegold we keep abreast of lease issues affecting our clients in New England. Our expert attorneys and staff collaborate closely with clients to understand their objectives and determine how to best achieve their goals. Our personalized and expert service is the product of our team’s readiness to add value at every opportunity. If you have a legal challenge you wish to discuss feel free to contact us at your earliest convenience.

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