Council Passes the Jim Brooks Stabilization Act
On October 4, 2017, the Jim Brooks Stabilization Act, also known as Just Cause Eviction, passed in a 10 to 3 vote. The Act gives the City the ability to inform tenants of their rights and provide them with resources in the event of an eviction, in order to prevent displacement. To do so, the Act requires property owners who own seven or more residential units in the city to alert the City Office of Housing Stability (COHS) within two days of serving a lease non-renewal or eviction notice to a tenant.
Councilor Pressley stated, “Everyone, regardless of their position or wealth, whether they are a tenant or homeowner, deserves to know their rights, and that is why I am supporting this legislation.” This Act also provides tenants with potential legal relief including actual damages, punitive damages, reasonable attorney’s fees and expenses.
There are nine ways in which a tenant may be evicted for just cause including: non-payment of rent, violation of a tenancy agreement, and refusal to sign a lease. Councilor Zakim stated at the meeting, “I think we’ve presented what is an interesting and an important… two-pronged approach that I am hopeful, when enacted, will make a real difference in our communities and will make sure that folks are not being displaced, while at the same time making sure that when there is a just cause for eviction folks can be removed when it is deserved.”
Opponents of the proposal explained that there are existing state laws in place that govern the landlord and tenant relationship, and that certain provisions in the proposal would essentially bypass the traditional housing court process. Arguments were made that the proposal would impact small property owners and that the legislation amounts to a form of rent control. Opponents also explained that there are already protections in place for tenants and that this proposal could have an adverse effect on development. Councilor Linehan stated at the meeting, “I do not think that this truly addresses the matter. I never said that I was going to support Just Cause Eviction because I felt that there were ample laws and bureaucracies in place to address these issues.”
The Councilors who voted for passage of the Jim Brooks Act ultimately agreed that displacement in Boston neighborhoods must be addressed somehow. Councilor Campbell stated, “This is a serious problem in the City of Boston, it’s a crisis.” Proponents explained that the proposal will provide a mechanism to notify tenants of their rights and will lead to stability in neighborhoods. They highlighted that it is a moderate measure to help with displacement and will stabilize families and discussed the connection between evictions and health problems. Councilor Pressley stated, “Housing is a human right and the displacement of families needs to be addressed as the public health crisis that is is. Being evicted is destabilizing and devastating to our families and our neighborhoods and threatens the very diversity that we say we value and celebrate as a city.”
Under a separate ordinance - the Eviction Data Collection ordinance - the City Office of Housing Stability will be gathering data which will allow the City to know where and how often evictions are taking place in order to potentially prevent such evictions. Councilor Pressley followed up with, “We cannot fully address a problem we do not have complete data for. We need to know who, where, and how evictions are happening in the City, and for a host of reasons we have not been able to access the housing court data around this issue. But even putting those challenges aside we know this will not give us the full picture of displacement and that is why we need the Jim Books Stabilization Act.”