By Making It Harder to be a Landlord in MA, They are Making it Also Harder to be a Tenant in MA

I admire the stamina of our legislators. Never give up, never surrender. The problem is their “solutions” are exactly the opposite of what needs to be done if they want more housing.

Rents too high? Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy- let’s cap’em by introducing rent control.

Landlords denying housing due to prior criminal record? Let’s make it close to impossible to check a criminal record by requiring $25 per each check plus the SSN and the DOB of the tenant applicant.

Landlords denying housing due to prior evictions? No problem, let’s prevent landlords from seeing evictions and knowing who they invite into their property by sealing evictions and/or making it a discrimination to ask for a prior housing record.

90% of Landlords have an attorney because we forced them by law to hire one? Let’s provide free lawyers to tenants.

50 years ago lead paint companies were allowed to use lead paint and poison children? Let’s make landlords who weren’t even born then and had nothing to do with it pay for it now. We’ll only give them a $1500 credit without it being adjusted each year for inflation since the 70s.

Evictions too high? Let’s come up with some kind of “temporary” Eviction Moratorium and then make it permanent. Or at least let’s make evictions more expensive, slower and more painful for the landlord.

Houses too expensive to buy? Let’s scare regular market buyers by making the sale long and cumbersome and then force the landlord to sell to his tenants after losing his market buyers who were unwilling to wait.

It’s hard to rent with a bad credit? We have a plan for that – let’s ban credit checking.

It’s a never ending active volcano of well-intentioned but bad ideas.

What these legislators don’t understand is that by making it harder and harder to be a housing provider in MA, they are making it also harder to be a tenant in MA.

These bad ideas are scaring landlords that they would lose their nest egg and income if they get the wrong tenant. The legislative push is to prevent landlords from charging market rent, make evictions harder and force losses onto the landlords by blindfolding them and preventing them from knowing who they rent to by sealing eviction, credit and criminal records.

Also what these legislators don’t understand is that for every action there is an equal reaction in the opposite direction. The legislators have already de facto succeeded in blindfolding landlords as to the criminal history of the applicant. In response to that and making evictions harder and harder every year landlords have started to check more carefully the eviction and credit history of applicants and only rent to the cream of the crop.

Now they want to take away the ability to see prior evictions and the credit history. I can’t predict how landlords will adjust if that happens – maybe they will require 5 yrs of digitally date-stamped proof of timely rental payments or simply get out of being a housing provider, I don’t know. I do know that for every force there is an equal force in the opposite direction. It’s hard to know how that force will manifest itself.

Dear Legislators, if you want to provide free lawyers to tenants then provide free lawyers to landlords too. If you want to lower evictions and lower homelessness due to non-payment make the RAFT program pay landlords promptly on the behalf of non-paying tenants, if you want lower rents and housing prices, build more housing. Blindfolding landlords by not allowing them to see credit and eviction records is wrong and will backfire.

Instead of doing that, why not require that all Notices to Quit contain the middle initial of the tenants and if not the full date of birth then require just the year of birth and require the Courts to enter that into the database so that the eviction records are more accurate? Why not make credit checking free and easy? Instead of making evictions more and more difficult, why don’t you allow Evictions at Will (similarly to Employment at Will) and create an Eviction Insurance paid for by all landlords (similarly to Unemployment Insurance paid for by all employers)?

Transparency is vital to a functioning Democracy and Sunshine is the best Disinfectant.

It’s fine to not enter the information of minors into the eviction database but it’s not fine to seal anything else except maybe in cases of non-payment evictions to seal the eviction after 7 years provided the tenant has paid to the landlord what was owed. We are all for second chances but what about personal responsibility too? Maybe there is a reason behind that no-fault eviction but the landlord chose not to fight it as a for-cause eviction because he didn’t quite have the evidence to prove it in court. Maybe there is a good reason behind that bad credit report or criminal record but we can get to the truth by speaking with the applicant and their previous landlords, etc and asking for more records but do not blindfold us by prohibiting us from even seeing the history of this applicant and forcing us to invite an unknown and unknowable person onto our homes. We all know that karma is a ***** but so is the law of unintended consequences – you improve agriculture but population growth explodes, you prescribe antibiotics too much but increase hospital infections, you invent the automobile but create global warming, you improve farming and meat production but fry the planet, you improve pesticides but kill the bees and starve yourself, you kill homeless cats and dogs but increase the rat population which causes the Plague, you make evictions too hard but you get less housing…

Clearly housing is in short supply but this decades long sustained ever-increasing attack on the housing providers year after year I bet is providing less housing not more.

Year after year tenant advocates are urging you to prohibit eviction, credit and criminal checking by landlords, set the rent to an amount that you think is fair and ban all evictions. That’s the end result and that’s where you are moving, we can all see that. My question is why not just do it – make it a discrimination for the landlord to ask any questions about the past history of the applicant, tell the landlord how much they are allowed to charge a month and ban all evictions or better yet just nationalize all rental property like the Russians did in the Revolution of 1917, rent to first come, first serve, charge them close to nothing and never evict them. Why go thru all these incremental, middleman steps? You be the landlords. But of course, no. You don’t want to do the work. What you really want is someone else to make the huge investment required and do the work while you tell them who they can rent to, how much they can charge and for how long. (: 

Leave a Reply