Amid record levels of unemployment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of Massachusetts residents are struggling to pay rent and afford basic necessities. The statewide eviction moratorium prevents anyone from being forced out of their home for now, but if the Governor does not extend the moratorium, that protection could end on August 18th – flooding courts with eviction cases. According to landlord organizations, as many as an estimated 15,000 new evictions will be filed.
As part of the response to the tidal wave of evictions expected to hit when the moratorium lifts, Senator Sal DiDomenico has filed emergency legislation to establish a statewide Right to Counsel pilot project. The bill, SD 2971, would protect low-income renters and owner-occupants facing eviction in areas of the Commonwealth hit hardest by the pandemic by establishing projects statewide, within each of the Housing Court’s six divisions.
As a member of the Massachusetts Right to Counsel Coalition, we know that without a lawyer, many tenants do not know how to protect themselves in and out of the courtroom from the threat of eviction. This bill is an important step in ensuring a fairer, more balanced process, preventing homelessness, displacement, unjust evictions, and creating a path to housing stability in the wake of the pandemic.
What You Can Do
Time is of the essence!
- Contact your Senator & Representative TODAY and ask them to co-sponsor SD 2971 Emergency Right to Counsel Pilot.
- Check whether your Senator and Rep co-sponsored Right to Counsel bills earlier this year. If they did, thank them for their earlier support when you ask them to co-sponsor SD 2971.
- Use the starter email below which includes links to the fact sheet and information about the Coalition.
- Because elected officials get a lot of emails, follow-up with a phone call to ask whether the Senator or Rep will co-sponsor the bill.
- Click here to find your Senator and Representative emails and phone numbers.
My name is _______ and I am a Massachusetts resident from _____________. I’m contacting you to ask that you co-sponsor Senate Docket 2971, a statewide right to counsel pilot program to respond to the COVID-19 emergency. It is urgent that we advance this bill quickly to avert the coming eviction crisis. Landlord organizations estimate 15,000 new evictions will be filed when the eviction moratorium ends.
Over 90% of tenants face eviction without legal representation, while 70% of landlords have lawyers – an imbalance that may be felt even more when the moratorium ends. Massachusetts needs a comprehensive eviction prevention response that includes full legal representation in eviction cases to stabilize people’s housing.
Over 130 organizations have joined together to support a right to counsel in Massachusetts. I hope you will join with others to co-sponsor SD 2971. Please see the fact sheet with more information about SD 2971. Thank you for all of your work to keep Massachusetts residents safe and housed.
Your name ______________
Thank you for supporting low-income and unrepresented tenants and taking quick action to expand access to justice!
Our Response to COVID-19
From advocating for increased support for youth experiencing homelessness, to sharing multilingual resources to help immigrant and Limited English Proficient families withstand the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic – there’s work to be done. Learn more about steps we’re taking to aid our most vulnerable communities during the pandemic and how you can help.
Want to stay informed on the latest issues Massachusetts Appleseed is working on?
Sign up for future action alerts.