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Tenants at large Hyde Park development sue lawyers that moved to evict them during the pandemic

Three tenants at the Georgetowne Homes development in Hyde Park are suing a Braintree law firm that filed to evict them and 110 other families last March, despite a city moratorium on evictions.

The three are seeking to become lead plaintiffs in a suit filed recently in US District Court against Turk & Quijano of Braintree, the law firm that filed 113 eviction requests in Housing Court on behalf of Georgetowne owner Beacon Communities.

All of the 967 apartments in Beacon Communities' development are subsidized. Residents are required to file annual paperwork to determine how much rent they pay, based on their income - but are supposed to file amended forms if their income suddenly changes, for example, by losing a job due to Covid-19. Becaon publicly pledged not to evict anyone during the pandemic and says the Housing Court actions were simply a last-ditch effort to get the attention of tenants who had not filed new paperwork to account for pandemic changes in their income.

But in their suit, the residents say that in some cases, Beacon was at fault, that the company simply would not answer repeated queries from tenants about what to do. The eviction filings, they continue, often claimed tenants owed way more in back rent than they really did. And now, they say, they have a permanent mark against them, because even though most of the court cases were dismissed, their names remain permanently in the Housing Court docket database, which landlords and prospective mortgage lenders use as part of their background checks. Also, some of the suits named the children of leaseholders, which they say is illegal in eviction notices and which now exposes them to future unfair scrutiny as well.

Defendants’ filing and prosecuting of these unnecessary and error-riddled evictions forced tenants to use their time and effort to prepare for and attend unnecessary court proceedings, caused unnecessary emotional distress, and also created a difficult, if not impossible, to remove negative marker on the affected tenants’ housing and credit histories. ...

A variety of tenant screening companies collect eviction records from MassCourts or from other sources which provide access to public records. The mere filing of an eviction case will thus typically show up on tenant screening companies’ reports.

In addition, tenant screening companies often use algorithms that result in a recommendation to reject applications of prospective tenants who have a prior eviction filing on their record.

One of the tenants, Shelley Liriano, who says her 13-year-old daughter was named in the suit against her, was a birth registrar at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, when she became pregnant and then, in December, 2020, was exposed to Covid-19 and took a leave.

As early as December 23, 2020, Ms. Liriano repeatedly tried to inform Beacon management that her income had decreased and thus her share of the rent should be lower. She was passed along a chain of employees all of whom informed her that they were not the correct person to assist her.

Ms. Liriano kept paying what she believed was the correct share of rent based on what her income was at any given time.

Despite Ms. Liriano’s continued payment of her rent share and her many attempts at recertification, Beacon sent her a Notice to Quit in late January 2021. ...

Ms. Liriano’s recertification from July 2020 was finally completed by Beacon in December 2021. Her recertification makes clear that she owed nothing at the time Defendants filed the case against her or at either time she was pressured to fill out rental assistance applications.

In fact, she was credited over $5,500 due to the retroactive adjustment of her rent share.

Defending the wrongful court action and facing eviction was extremely emotionally taxing for Ms. Liriano, particularly because she was aware that she was not behind on rent.

Ms. Liriano had constant anxiety about becoming homeless at a time when she was already undergoing post-partum depression.

She had trouble eating, sleeping, and found herself getting distracted at both at work and at home when she was trying to parent her children.

She also worried about the effect an eviction record might have on future credit options for both herself and her daughter. She wants her daughter to have good credit for the future and worried (and continues to worry) about what it will mean to have an eviction case reflected on her credit.

The suit charges the law firm's actions violated the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act because Beacon says it never intended to kick anybody out yet still started eviction proceedings, that the court paperwork falsely represented what the tenants actually owed .

They are seeking damages to be determined by a jury.

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Comments

Watch for this to be a set up.

Beacon will now settle and then sell Georgetowne to another developer who will not be required to maintain it as affordable housing or accept low-income vouchers.

Fairlawn Apts already fell with rent increases of tens to hundreds of dollars for people living there as much as 40 years, many with subsidies, when new ownership took over. Morton Village also fell the same way.

Earlier High Point Village fell and while some of the units are still "affordable" the Stoney Brook development (new name) blocked the road so the "affordable" units have their own segregated entrance now. Let's not connect with "those people."

Lots of talk about "affordable" but things like this continue to happen in this city with no protection of the working class or low income families that need the most help.

What does "affordable" mean anyway? When you are lumped in with Newton, Brookline, and Malden for calculations "affordable" is no longer affordable. Boston defines what the city's "affordable" is but has no teeth to make that stick.

And all that banter about adding more housing to meet the need and that will result in lower rents? That's ol' Ronnie Regan's trickle-down economics in another wrapper. Didn't work then, doesn't work now.

God Bless those people in Georgetowne, but this may be the beginning of the end. Beacon will dump it and then it's up for grabs and gentrification.

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Or convincing people to just leave are the only ways to effectively keep a lid on housing costs. Rent control/stabilization helps a subset of the population who get to stay where they are at a below-market price but it effectively takes those units out of the market forever -- just like the current system of affordable set-asides.

Texas added over half the number of people living in Massachusetts between 2010 and 2020 -- nearly as many as live in Metro Boston. Say what you want about the desirability of living in Texas, but housing there has stayed much more affordable because it is generally so much easier to build there.

You can buy a home within 45 minutes of downtown Houston, in a good school district, suitable for raising a family (i.e. 3 or 4 bedrooms), with a yard, for less than what it costs to rent a 1-bedroom apartment in Roxbury.

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to compare "45 minutes to downtown Houston" (what, in a car? ok, account for that cost, champ) with living in Roxbury.

good god.

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Ownership, gas, insurance, maintenance, registration, etc. you still come out ahead.

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Houston is huge land wise. It would encompass most of eastern Massachusetts.

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Also flat and treeless. But refineries, oh boy!

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You can buy a home within 45 minutes of downtown Houston, in a good school district ...

I doubt that there are any objectively good school districts in Texas. I'm sure some are better than others, but they are all subject to the awful state board of education and antiscience laws passed by the reactionary legislature. Their idea of a good school system is one without too many people of color, and with a strong football team. If living in Texas appeals to you, by all means go there.

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Their idea of a good school system is one without too many people of color,

Umm... that's true for every metro area in the USA, including Boston. Especially Boston.

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A well known attorney in the south shore condo/landlord bar. Opinions vary!

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Seriously?

She may be on the lease as a resident, but not as anyone with any responsibility.

Talk about people who think they are above the law!

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And sadly, I am sure there are many other cases of really shady landlords trying to do this to tenants.

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Is there any way to get civil court actions (like eviction filings) expunged the way they get rid of criminal records? The plaintiffs are claiming that's the injury - evictions lingering in their records. If the court can simply delete them from their records, then that problem is solved.

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