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.