The Physical Eviction of Renee A. Hutchison or How The Storage Law in MA is Failing both Tenants and Landlords.
Physical Evictions are very rare. Out of 57 times I have gone to Housing Court over my 23 year career with between 45 and 55 apartments where someone was served with a Summary Process Summons and Complaint ONLY 9 ended up being physical evictions. That’s about 16%. Physical eviction happens when the tenant refuses to leave despite the order of the court and a sheriff must come and physically move them out. Obviously both tenants and landlords try to avoid physical evictions as much as they can. They are dramatic, dangerous, traumatic and unforgettable for both sides.
My regular/physical evictions are as follows. I don’t have data before 2003
I started checking credit reports a lot more seriously around 2013 and I have lived happily ever after. That’s the most important thing a landlord can do!
Unfortunately in 2020 during the Covid-19 epidemic and during the Eviction Moratorium I had to evict this tenant and on top of it ended up turning into a physical eviction costing me about $6,000. (more if you take into account the opportunity costs and the value of time and stress.)
How did this happen? Renee was a long term tenant. She moved in with her girlfriend/wife on 2011 (before I checked credit properly!) so she was the only one remaining “legacy” tenant I still had and until her wife was living with her the situation was somewhat tolerable. After she left, things went downhill. I started hearing about her illegally subletting rooms, disturbances, police reports, drugs being sold outside, etc and of course the rent was always late. I took her to housing court in 2019. We signed a court Agreement where she agreed these disturbances to stop and for her to pay the rent on time.
Unfortunately, I kept getting emails/texts from neighbors talking about traffic all day and night, multiple cars stopping by for a short period of time and leaving, etc and the rent was a big struggle so I went back to court to ask for an Execution because of non-compliance with the Agreement. Unfortunately Covid-19 hit and the Hearing was postponed twice. On top of everything there were some medical issues which I will not go into here. It was a dilemma. How do you evict somebody with medical issues who is not paying the rent and engaging in possible drug dealing and illegally subletting rooms to possibly dangerous people? I knew that her income was not affected by Covid-19. If anything it increased during that time because of the $1200 Government check. I did not want this hearing to be postponed again. Housing court explained that I needed to submit certain forms for the narrow “health and safety” exception of the Moratorium and submit them over efilema.gov if I wanted to ask that the date is not postponed again.
The Hearing was scheduled and conducted over Zoom. I had two witnesses (both neighbors one tenant one not a tenant) who both testified to the cars, traffic and told Judge Horan that they saw drug deals happening outside. The tenant did not show up. Her mother showed up over the phone but she wasn’t really a tenant at that point. She had left over 6 months before to live in a nursing home plus she did not object to any eviction, she just wanted some of her personal stuff before her daughter was evicted. Unfortunately Judge Horan took it under advisement and I waited for a week for the decision in my favor.
As I was stuck out of state due to Covid-19 my mail was being temporality forwarded, the USPS requires a week before they can cancel forwarding so the Execution was lost in the mail and I got it 20 days !!!! after it was mailed by the Court. It was issued on 7-1-20 but I was not allowed to use it until 7-8-20. On 7-8-20 I had no Execution in my hands. The court refused to even email me a copy. The Sheriff demanded the Original (why, God, why, in 2020 when MassCourts.org exists?) and I couldn’t even hire and schedule movers until at least I had a copy. Between 7-1-20 and 7-8-20 the court kept telling me I didn’t need it because I can’t use it until 7-8-20 anyway which is a faulty logic, really. NO, we need it the moment it’s signed by the judge to start planning with the movers and there must be ways to do this in 2020 rather than put all your eggs in the Post Office basket. First of all, my argument is that the Sheriffs and Constables do not need an Original. Do they doubt the Execution is real? Is that the big concern? If there is a doubt that an Execution was really issued by the court, all they need to do is log into MassCourts, it takes seconds and they can see that it’s real. I had to beg the Court to re-mail it to a MA address and finally I received it on the 13th and overnighted to the Sheriff of Worcester County on the 15th.
Here I want to take a small detour from the story and talk to you about Democrats and Republicans because it’s important to see things in context and it’s related to this and similar situations.
Republicans have the reputation of being pro-business and Democrats have the reputation of being pro-working class, defenders of minorities and the poor. I am a Democrat. I can’t help it. I refuse to be selfish, deplorable and cults were never my thing. The Republican Party of now is a cult, no doubt about it – just ask Liz Cheney. Republicans want certain things and they are quite unscrupulous at achieving them. For example, they want to stack the Supreme Court with their type of judges and they went “nuclear” with rules of the Senate in order to prevent Barack Obama from appointing a judge in his last year in office. Unconstitutional? Of course! But no problem. Also they know they cannot legitimately win an electron and so they come up with all kinds things to make it harder for Democtrats to vote. Because Republicans can’t win national elections if they let people vote freely, the next best thing is to make it so hard to vote that people just don’t vote. Especially they make things hard on minorities.
They are also very much against abortions including in cases where the health of the mother is at risk or she was raped. They believe that life begins at erection because they were personally told so by Jesus himself. They want to outlaw abortions but since they realize they can’t easily overturn case law precedent, they have settled on the next best thing – to require board certified doctors to perform abortions making it so you can do it in only one or two locations in several southern states. If you can’t change the law then do the next best thing, right?
Democrats, on the other hand, are the “good” people. We want everyone to have rights. We are the party that sees racism where even black people don’t see it. We are that good! In fact, we are so good, righteous and politically correct, that I call the Democrats the “goody-two-shoe-people.” This attitude is so irritating to so many people that about 40% of voters looked at us and said “No, thank you, I would rather vote for the mentally ill Orange Orangutan for the White House.” We want prisoners to have color TVs and optical internet in their cells, we want no one to be evicted EVER, easy access to housing (let’s ban credit and eviction history checking because tenants with evictions and bad credit find it so hard to find housing!), low rents (cancel rents if possible), no racism even if that means no credit report checking because that has a disparate impact. We are the wonderful people who come up with the fancy concepts like “unintentional discrimination” and “disparate impact”. We are also the wonderful people who come up with nonsense like “latinx” and yell at people for not wearing masks outside even if more than 6ft away.
So because Democrats can’t readily and directly eliminate evictions by law or force housing providers to provide free housing, what do we do? Well, we do the next best thing – make it so hard for landlords to evict that there are no evictions. Just like the Republicans we close our eyes and pretend that every action is not met by equal reaction in the opposite direction. We create Moratoriums, we require that along with Notices to Quit the Landlords add attestations forms, we do eviction sealing to blindfold landlords, we prohibit charging of application fees again to blindfold landlords (thank god, there are free ways these days to get credit reports), we require that along with Summary Process landlords apply multiple other documents because of the state and federal moratoriums and if there is even a typo in the notices or this form or that form not fully filled we look for reasons to find technicalities and say that the service was invalid, we schedule Summary Process hearings 3 months into the future, anything to make it so hard, so painful to evict that will bring evictions to an artificial zero. What Democrats don’t understand is that this kind of short-term thinking on ways to lower evictions not only doesn’t really work but also there are better ways to do it – see my list at the end of this post.
So in that kind of sprit the current Storage Law in MA was born. Make evictions harder and harder. Democrats in MA said – ok, instead of allowing Landlords to be able to hire any mover, we’ll require that they can only hire a “Licensed and Bonded Warehouse” mover. Which is basically the equivalent of the Republicans requiring a licensed board certified doctor, of course, because they were so concerned about the safety of the mother, right?. Democrats used the sob story of a tenant who was evicted and her pictures were lost in order to push this ridiculous Storage Law. Of course, we all know that evictions take months; tenants know that the movers are coming for months, how hard is it to gather your pictures in a handbag? But none of that mattered. The law was adopted and from hundreds and hundreds of options of movers and storage places in MA, suddenly there were only like 40 licensed and bonded warehouses and last time I wrote about it several years ago they had dwindled to about 20 because no one wants to deal with evictions while at the same time be exposed to 93A for everything they do and don’t do as the law was written and now they are about only 12 of them left in the whole state. Soon there will be only several regional monopolies and if you want your tenant out you will need to give them whatever they want as a deposit plus sexual favors if they ask for them. We are pretty close to that point now.
Once I received my Execution I was finally able to talk to the Movers and Storers. By the way making landlords wait to get the “original” in the mail is also another example of how MA (a majority Democratic Party State by a large margin) is trying to make it difficult for the landlords in order to discourage evictions. Yet another example that comes to mind is requiring that landlords put a street address on the eviction paperwork. For some reason, you are not allowed to put a PO Box address in Housing Court even though District Courts allow it just fine. The housing court judge address is protected for their family safety yet we need to disclose where we live to the person we are evicting? The hell with landlords’ safety. Anything to discourage evictions, right? In MA in order to evict you are required to potentially expose your family’s safety by disclosing your actual street address to an already angry person whom you are evicting. The ends justify the means.
Let’s go back to the Movers and Storers in MA. Here is the list of all Licensed and Bonded Warehouses in MA as of July 2020.
|Athol is too far for them
|not doing evictions any more
|Altlantic Boston Construction
|not doing evictions any more
|Ayers Moving and Storage
|$2500 deposit, half a month
|will email me something
|about $3000 ($450 per room) not by the hour
|never called me back
|Town To Town movers
|not doing evictions any more
|never called me back
|$2000 flat, will text me
|not doing evictions during Covid-19
|Eastern Commonwealth Moving
|called me back, mentioned $400/room
In the comments you can see what I am talking about. Some of them are no longer doing it, some are prohibitively expensive like Ayer Moving who told me over email they would charge hourly AND per box. They are denying it but it surely looks to me they are double-dipping. And by the way on Mass.gov all these public and bonded warehouses are required to publish their prices online (https://www.mass.gov/doc/2018-list-of-rates-and-registered-eviction-warehouses/download?_ga=2.183688238.98959527.1610910769-1391886641.1610421722)
but if you work for the State and are reading this please understand that prices per storage rooms are USELESS to landlords. We need prices per 1-bedroom, 2-bedroom apartment, etc so we can really compare. Otherwise we have to call all of them (which won’t be a problem in a couple of years because the way you are going there will be only two left).
Anyway, there are currently only 10-12 functioning moving and storing companies in the State in 2020 (maybe less as I am publishing this in mid-2021, a year later). Out of them I was told over email by the Sheriff of Worcester County that I am allowed to only pick between Hartmann, Town to Town, SouthCoast, Fitton, Gallant and Triple M. Theoretically and by law I may be allowed to hire others but practically I am limited to those because the Sheriff of Worcester County is the only one who serves Athol and surrounding areas. So let me just repeat that – the Sheriff of Worcester County is the only one that serves Athol and surrounding Worcester County areas! You better be on your good side because if you piss them off you just can’t evict (After reading this I can imagine Representative Mike Connelly and company peeing a little bit in his pants out of happiness!). (Also while we are on the topic – the Franklin County Sheriff is the only option to serve anything in Orange, MA and you can either mail them a check and wait until they receive it (a week?) before they can serve your Notices (not a real option) or serve your Notice to Quit yourself which is contingent upon the tenant admitting to the court that they were served (also not a real option) or give them your full credit card information over the phone including the 3-digit code at the back because they do not have an online payment page or accept payments using PayPal or Zellepay, etc in 2021! That’s where we are in MA.)
Well, so I had a choice of 6 Movers and Storers. Still sounds OK, right?
Hartmann and Town to Town were no longer doing evictions, SouthCoast won’t return my calls (much later I learned they wanted $2,000-$3,000), Fitton wanted a $2500 deposit, Gallant won’t give me a quote (later I have it in my notes that they wanted $215/hour) and Triple M never gave me a quote. I went with Fitton as they were the closest. They demanded $2,500 deposit and made me wait 17 days and I think they only told me about the 17 days wait after they already had my bank check deposit. I guess they were too busy moving and storing during the summer of 2020 when the whole state was practically under house arrest due to Covid-19. But I digress.
And then there is the issue of everybody getting so easily offended. When did America become so fragile? Even if you delicately suggested different price or terms or even tried to negotiate, there was the immediate “go hire someone else”. I got that from more than several of them. (As a side note here, one of the sites where I list available apartments for rent is called Apartments.com. Several years ago they prohibited the usage of the word “required”. You could not say “Security Deposit is required to move in”. You had to say “Security Deposit is needed to move in”. I guess the word “required” was too harsh for America in 2020. No, I am not kidding. Your listing will literally not be approved if you use the word “required” in it. So that’s where we are on the scale of fragility, political correctness and virtue signaling).
So finally the day of the eviction came. The movers knew what they were doing – they went straight for the wooden chairs and furniture basically anything of value, anything that could be sold later. They wouldn’t touch any furniture that had anything on top of it (like a cup or a pen) unless it was removed by me. If it wasn’t for me complaining about the fact they were leaving too much behind and the sheriff who told them to take a metal bed frame they would have left it. Everything else was declared trash by the Sheriff and left behind – it took a 15 cubic yard dumpster plus another 5 cubic yards of TVs, mattresses (there were at least 11 mattresses), etc.
The movers did not allow me to take a picture of the inside of the truck to see what they took and they did not allow me to follow them to see how long it would take to unload. Why not? I am the one paying for it, after all.
After the movers were done and gone I get a phone call from Worcester Court. They want to conduct another emergency Zoom hearing right away – they said they had someone claiming to be a tenant who claims they knew nothing about the physical eviction. We had the Zoom hearing while I was outside next to my truck. I told the Magistrate that I have never met this person or her boyfriend until today, they never paid me rent, they don’t have a contract with me, I don’t know who they are, they must be the drug dealers who the witnesses testified about and who my tenant was illegally sub-leasing to. Thankfully, the Magistrate agreed with me and told them it’s over. I am telling you this to show you how painful and how difficult it is to evict anyone in MA. Some random people claim they are tenants and they get an immediate same-day Zoom audience with a Central Housing Court judge and we can’t see a judge for 2-3 months after filing after their well-intended Eviction Moratorium clogged the court system. Instead of 3 weeks after filing as it was before the Moratorium they are scheduling now the Hearing Date for evictions in 2021 2-3-4-5 months into the future. That’s Housing Court. District Court? Forget it. I have a small claims case in Leominster District Court that was filed 12-28-20, took until 4-8-21 to schedule the first hearing for 7-13-21. That’s the American Justice System?
So, Mike Connolly, Kevin Honan and the rest of the “goody two shoes” gang, if you are reading this – your Storage Laws are not helping tenants! Storage Companies are becoming monopolies and they only come and grab whatever they think may have any resale value which is usually solid wood furniture and the rest 99% has to be publicly thrown out in a dumpster outside the building. I don’t blame them. They are trying to protect themselves too. They make landlords pay the first 3 months (even though that’s not in the law), then they are not getting paid for the next 3 months and then they can sell whatever they have taken, evicted tenants rarely come to claim anything. Soon movers will start demanding landlords pay the full 6 months making evictions even costlier for landlords. I am surprised they are not asking for 6 months now as they are de facto monopolies and they can certainly get away with it.
I know you don’t care but this lack of options in storage is not only hurting landlords but also hurting tenants. They have to drive great distances to get their stuff PLUS they are still publicly humiliated, which the new Storage Law was supposedly designed to avoid, by having 99% of their possessions declared trash and scattered in trash container and walkways outside the building. Believe me, the whole neighborhood knows.
This tenant cost me over $6,000. I know you want to see easy access to housing and that’s why you are clamoring about restoring rent control and pushing eviction-sealing and I know that you want zero evictions so you try to make it prohibitively difficult and expensive to evict people by passing laws like the current Storage Law and also pushing for a 2nd 12-month Eviction Moratorium etc but PLEASE UNDERSTAND – the harder you make to evict, the more scared landlords get that if they make the wrong decision about who to rent to it will cost them $6,000 or more and access to housing becomes harder because landlords expectedly and naturally raise rents and their criteria of who can become a tenant.
I know your heart is in the right socialist place but you are your worst enemies. I also want no evictions (and I don’t know of any landlord who wants to evict anybody) but you are doing it exactly the wrong way. And you are tireless and relentless in your pursuit too. In the middle of the night you tried to insert things like the Right of First Refusal and Eviction-Sealing in the Annual Budget so it can easily pass but thankfully the Governor noticed them this time and vetoed them but I know next time you will succeed. And when you succeed in blindfolding landlords so that we cannot see the housing court records of tenants, I guess we will only accept prospective tenants with Excellent Credit and no longer with just Very Good or Good credit just to overcompensate our blind spot when it comes to housing court history. Those are thousands and thousands of prospective tenants who would not be able to rent because of you. After you succeed in blocking us from seeing eviction history then I am sure you would also want to block us from seeing their credit history. If I remember correctly the State Moratorium already prohibits anything negative getting on their credit reports if it happened during Covid. Then I assume we will be forced to demand to see 2 yrs of good digital stamp rental receipts and not take anyone with less than perfect rental history in order to protect our business and our families. That’s another thousands and thousands who would not qualify as many people pay their rent “in cash” and therefore do not have acceptable receipts because cash receipts can be written by anyone at any time. These are the unintended consequence of your actions.
You are hurting tenants by hurting landlords!
There is a better way to improve access to housing – instead of blindfolding landlords by eviction-sealing, give more information to landlords so that they don’t make mistakes considering there are so many John Smiths – require that Housing court always enters the middle initial, address and the year of birth. More information is the answer not less.
I want you, Kevin and Mike and all the others who think similarly, to know that when people are crying because they don’t qualify (I am not exaggerating), I will give them your names and numbers because you are the reason they don’t qualify. I know it’s not intuitive but if you want to increase access to housing you need to make evictions easier, faster and less costly (maybe insure against apt damages?) to landlords so that landlords are less afraid to rent. Because at-will employment exists and it’s so easy to fire people, it’s also easy to hire them and that’s good for the economy. There should be at-will evictions and they should be almost as fast as at-will firings.
Here is what needs to happen in MA to lower evictions and homelessness naturally (not artificially and temporary as you are doing it now thru Moratoriums or by making it impossible or extremely difficult to evict and collect money. By the way your well-intentioned Moratorium caused such a backlog of cases after 6 months of landlords not being able to even apply for an eviction that cases are currently scheduled for 2-3 months or more into the future and that is not Justice, certainly not sustainable and it is a direct side effect of your State Moratorium ):
- Fix the Moving and Storage law to allow the landlord to hire any mover they want.
- Make evictions easier and faster not harder and longer
- Make Notices to Quit 3-days as is in many other States
- When we serve the Summary Process schedule a Zoom hearing for next week rather than in 2-3-4-5 months as it is now post-Moratorium. There is no tsunami of filings but there is a backlog which is really the same thing because it takes much longer to scheduling everything. This has to stop. Summary Process needs to be fast. Maybe hire more Clerks, Magistrates and Mediators…
- Don’t do eviction sealing for adults over 18. Instead require courts to use the middle initial and year of birth on all parties.
- Build more housing – the “Housing Choice”law signed by Gov. Baker eliminating the 2/3rd supermajority and requiring only a simple majority to build multifamily buildings in the rural and suburban area was a step in the right direction.
- Right now criminal records are inaccessible to landlords unless they get the DOB and SSN from the prospective tenant and pay a fee online ($25?) which is not a real option as we get many applicants a day. Make them free and part of MassCourts and accessible online.
- MassCourts should give the option for One Search combining all courts in the system. Right now we are forced to make over 65 individiual searches because we have to search each District and Housing court separately.
- Re-write the Security Deposit law to simplify its language and make it less “gotcha”. Even the SJC is struggling to undersand your Security Deposit Law. (just read the two Taylor vs Beaudry cases on my website)
- Re-write the Rent Escrow law to REQUIRE rent escrow – when a tenant calls the Health Board they must deposit the unpaid rent with the Health Board to be kept in escrow otherwise they can’t use the Health Board report in court. Without mandatory rent escrow currently most of the cases clogging the Housing Courts are bad faith cases. Duh!
- No more unfunded Moratoriums. If you are going to not allow us to evict unpaying tenants then you need to pay us directly and quickly and RAFT needs to be less pages and done without tenant cooperation. Tenants don’t want to fill 26 pages if they have no fear of being taken to court because there is an Eviction Moratorium.
- Make all debtors in MA do state-approved private community service to pay off court-ordered debts to private parties. The current system is a joke – I file a claim in court, wait 6 months to a year, the tenant either ignores the letter from the court and no record of the debt exists or even if they go to court and the court orders them to pay, it may or may not go on their credit report, we don’t know, but we do know that if they don’t pay there is no enforcement. Most tenants are judgement-proof anyway. If we win in court, we must be certain that we WILL get paid over time.
- The address of the tenant after they move is impossible for us to obtain and so they cannot get served or they just don’t sign the certified letter from the court and our filing fee gets wasted (by the way why do we have to pay over $150 to file a case in an American court?) and the tenant has no record of owing debt. This whole situation with addresses and servicing addresses in MA needs to be fixed.
- 93A needs to be clarified a bit – 1) must be always given to a jury when there is a jury because it’s a legal (dispute over money) and not an equitable claim and 2) no actual injury means no 93A. 93A should not apply when there is just a simple violation of a legal right without any actual injury.
You can say, but Elmir, you are cruel and insensitive to ask that evictions become as easy as at-will firings. You can get fired quickly but at least you have a home to go to. Firings and Evictions are not the same. We are talking about people losing their home. Sure, I understand that and it can only work if there was a good safety net provided by the State. After you get fired you get Cobra and unemployment insurance which all employers contribute to. Maybe it’s time in MA to start thinking about Eviction Insurance where all owners of multi-family buildings pay into it each year so that evictions can become easier. This eviction insurance will pay for up to 3-6 months in a motel/hotel. If evictions became less costly and there was an enforcement system of the debtors to pay off their debt over time, the housing access in MA will improve substantially because landlords will have less to fear of renting to the wrong tenant. Getting rid of the current storage laws and allowing landlords to hire any mover and doing the other things I mentioned will help too.