What is Just Cause?

March 14, 2016

To: Boston City Council
From: Right to Remain Coalition
Re: Response/clarification on changes we are proposing with the current JCE draft ordinance.  

Thank you for taking the time and energy to hear from and work with the community in addressing the displacement crisis in Boston.  This deepening crisis was the subject of City Council hearings in 2014 and 2015, for which public attendance was in the hundreds.  A broad coalition has grown over the past year calling for a municipal Just-Cause Eviction ordinance to be passed as an emergency measure to address displacement.

Massachusetts law currently allows all landlords - whether owner-occupants, giant real estate corporations, or foreclosing banks - to evict tenants in privately owned, non-subsidized housing “no-fault.”  This means that renters in market-rate housing can be evicted after their lease expires – or any time, if they don’t have a lease – without any reason given, and without having done anything to cause or deserve the loss of their housing.  In hot rental markets like Boston’s, access to the no-fault eviction procedure gives speculators the green light to buy and sell buildings based on a business plan of displacement to seek higher profits.  This results in grave disparate racial and gender impacts; as well as steep health, education, employment, and other social costs externalized to local governments and communities.  

A Just-Cause Eviction law would help stabilize Boston’s neighborhoods by protecting tenants (including foreclosed homeowners) from eviction by absentee landlords/banks without a legitimate reason.  Thousands of residents and dozens of community organizations have endorsed this proposed anti-displacement measure.  Various forms of Just-Cause legislation have been used effectively in Seattle, Oakland, San Francisco, LA, San Diego, Chicago, Washington DC, New Jersey, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts & Rhode Island (for foreclosed properties).  Our coalition urges the City to pair Just Cause Eviction in Boston with incentives such as tax breaks for landlords who commit to keeping their rents within certain levels of affordability.

To enact Just-Cause Eviction in Boston, the City Council must pass, and the Mayor must sign, a Home Rule Petition to be sent to the state legislature.  Our coalition has worked with lawyers and law professors, as well as consulted with other cities and states through our national networks, to draft a legally sound proposal.  After dialogue with Councilors and the Walsh administration, we have made revisions to the proposed ordinance.  

Our coalition’s current Just-Cause Eviction proposal would:

1. Halt building clear-outs by large property owners and bank evictions of former homeowners post-foreclosure.

2. Require large property owners and banks to provide a Just Cause for eviction, and to notify the city when terminating a tenancy for a cause other than nonpayment or tenant violation of the rental contract.  

3. Ensure that tenants know their legal rights and resources available to prevent homelessness.

4. Provide the City with a means of collecting data on displacement due to evictions and rent increases.

The law is targeted to cover large property owners with the power and resources to drive speculation and displacement.  It would completely exempt owners of 4 or fewer units who live in one of them; as well as student dorms, nonprofit-owned healthcare/rehab/transitional housing, and public & subsidized housing.   

Please note substantive changes from our prior draft proposal:  We are no longer proposing that tenants have a right to a one-time mediation session if an eviction is due to a requested rent increase of more than 5%.  Instead, we proposethat when covered landlords terminate a tenancy for a cause other than nonpayment or tenant violation of the rental contract, the notice must also be filed with the City, in order for landlords to be able to move forward with eviction cases in Housing Court.  (Such causes include: owner or relative moving into the unit, tenant refusal to renew a lease, rent increases.)  Prior to the end of the notice period/beginning of an eviction case, the City's Office of Housing Stability and/or a tenant rights organization would then inform the tenants of their rights under existing law and resources such as legal support or advocacy resources available to them. (The City could also inform landlords of their rights and resources).

What is the Right to Remain Coalition?

Right to Remain is a growing popular movement demanding neighborhood stabilization and our Right to Remain in Boston.  Our citywide coalition of groups and organizations is fighting displacement and gentrification at the neighborhood level, anchored by Right to the City Boston and the Boston Tenant Coalition.  Right to Remain calls for multiple stabilization policy and advocacy strategies that increase tenant rights and protections; demand community control over land/development;  address wealth building in our communities; and make speculators pay for the social and economic costs they create.

Who is the R2R (Right to Remain) Coalition?

Anchored by Right to the City Boston in partnership with Boston Tenant Coalition, ABDC, Action for Regional Equity, Allston Brighton CDC, Asian American Resource Workshop, Asian Community Development Corp, Black Economic Justice Institute, Boston Jobs Coalition, Brazilian Worker Center, Castle Square Tenants Organization, Chelsea Collaborative, Chinatown Resident Association, Codman Square NDC, Community Labor United, Dominican Development Center, Dorchester Bay EDC, Dorchester People for Peace, Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, Egleston Sq. Youth Group, Fair Housing Center of Greater Boston, Fairmount Indigo Line CDC Collaborative, Fenway Community Development Corp., Greater Boston Labor Council, Greater Bowdoin/Geneva Neighborhood Association, Greater Four Corners Action, Homes for Families, JP Neighborhood Council, JP Neighborhood Development Corp, Jamaica Plain Progressives, Jobs with Justice, MA CDC, Mass Vote, Matahari, Mattapan United, Progressive Communicators Network, Progressive Mass, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, SEIU 32BJ (District 615), Union of Minority Neighborhoods


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  • commented 2016-08-03 15:30:52 -0400
    Can you have a before-and-after table of what points in local law you are changing?