Mayor Walsh signs home rule petition to protect tenants, homeowners
Mayor Martin J. Walsh today signed the Jim Brooks Community Stabilization Act (JBCSA), a home rule petition that will help ensure tenants and former homeowners are aware of their rights under State law. The petition was passed by the City Council on Wednesday, October 4.
Once enacted by the State legislature, this law will help protect residential tenants and former homeowners living in their homes following a foreclosure against arbitrary, unreasonable, discriminatory, or retaliatory evictions, and help ensure that tenants and former homeowners are aware of their rights under State law.
"Many residents throughout Boston rent their homes, and we are committed to ensuring they have the support and protection they need," said Mayor Walsh. "By enacting the JBCSA, the City will be able to track and better manage displacement, educate tenants on their rights, and provide resources to help ensure that households remain housed. This legislation is about fairness and equity -- the JBCSA will help families stay in their homes, keeping our neighborhoods stable and diverse."
The Jim Brooks Community Stabilization Act was the result of many months of conversations between the City, the advocacy community and local property owners, and creates requirements for landlords to notify the City in the case of eviction. The Act requires landlords or foreclosing owners to provide tenants information concerning their legal rights and resources when serving a notice to quit or other notice of lease non-renewal or expiration. This notice, called the "City Rights Notice", will be created by the City's Office of Housing Stability (OHS). Landlords or foreclosing owners will also be required to provide tenants or former homeowners with written notice on forms prepared by OHS when exercising their right to lease non-renewal or expiration at least 30 days in advance of beginning any action against the tenant or former homeowners. In addition, the Act creates expanded protections for former homeowner evictions; under the provisions of the Act, the foreclosing homeowner can only evict if certain conditions are met.
"Rising rents, unjust evictions and growing displacement is hurting Boston residents and families. The Jim Brooks Stabilization Act is a small but important step in addressing the crisis. It's great to be here today with our elected officials. Together, we are committed to helping Boston residents remain in their homes," Darnell L. Johnson, Coordinator of Right to the City Boston.
There are several exemptions built into the proposed petition. For example, any units owned by a small landlord who is a Massachusetts resident owning fewer than seven rental units are exempt, as is temporary or transitional housing such as substance use treatment and recovery programs, and transitional housing for individuals who are homeless.
Public housing units already subject to eviction restrictions under state and federal law are exempt, as are hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and health facilities, along with units held in a trust on behalf of a developmentally disabled individual, or managed or owned by colleges or universities for housing undergraduate students.
The Act outlines penalties for landlords or foreclosing owners who proceed with an eviction without notifying the City, including the potential for the dismissal of the eviction action. In order for the City to gain the right to enforce these sections of the Act, it will be filed by State Representative Chynah Tyler, to be approved by the state legislature.
"There's no doubt we as a City have to take a stand in fighting displacement. We have more work to do, but this is a step in the right direction in protecting our residents and their families. The lengthy and in-depth process -- in which the Boston City Council, Mayor Walsh and the Department of Neighborhood Development, along with many other stakeholders carefully analyzed this Act -- was a collaborative effort," said Boston City Councilor At-Large Michael Flaherty, Chair of the City Council's Committee on Government Operations. "While this home rule petition goes through the legislative process, let's keep in mind that we recognize the work is not over and the conversation is ongoing in our collective goal to reduce evictions and displacement throughout our City."
The petition is named for Jim Brooks, a Roxbury community activist who passed away in April 2016.