ACTION ALERT: Legislation Filed to Create a Statewide Right to Counsel Pilot Program

Unless the Governor extends the statewide eviction moratorium, it could end on August 18th. And when it ends, courts will be flooded with eviction cases. Landlord organizations estimate 15,000 new evictions will be filed. 

On June 11, as part of a comprehensive response to the eviction tidal wave expected to hit when the moratorium lifts, State Senator Sal DiDomenico filed S.2785, emergency legislation to establish a statewide Right to Counsel Pilot project. The bill would protect low-income renters and owner-occupants facing eviction in areas of the Commonwealth hardest hit by COVID-19. The bill would establish right to counsel projects within each of the Housing Court’s six divisions in Massachusetts. The pilot is consistent with principles and proposals adopted by the Massachusetts Right to Counsel Coalition. For more details see S.2785 Fact Sheet.

Action Needed - Submit Testimony to the Housing Committee by Friday, July 10!

S.2785 is currently before the Joint Committee on Housing. The Committee will accept written testimony on the bill until 5:00 p.m. on Friday, July 10. Please help us advance the bill by submitting testimony to the Housing Committee! Testimony can be emailed to: kelly.mallon@mahouse.gov.

  1. Your testimony can be short; what is important is that the Housing Committee hears from as many of us as possible. There will be no public hearing, only written testimony will be accepted.
  2. Tell the Housing Committee in your own words why a right to counsel is important for people in your community to stabilize their housing. You can use the starter email below and change to include any personal message. 
  3. Address your testimony to Chair Senator Crighton and Chair Representative Honan; see who else is on the Housing Committee.
  4. Use this S. 2785 fact sheet to include useful information and data in your letter.
  5. Submit your testimony for S. 2785 to kelly.mallon@mahouse.gov by Friday, July 10, at 5:00 p.m.

Starter Email to the Housing Committee -

Dear Representative Honan and Senator Crighton,

My name is _______ and I am a Massachusetts resident from _____________. I'm contacting you to ask report S.2785 out favorably. The bill creates 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 that you will quickly report S.2785 out favorably. Please see the fact sheet with more information about the bill. Thank you for all of your work to keep Massachusetts residents safe and housed.

Your name ______________

Organization/Contact Information

Letter to Governor Urging His Support for Funding Right to Counsel -

On July 1, the Right to Counsel Coalition sent a letter to Governor Baker urging him to dedicate $6 million from the state’s Coronavirus Relief Fund to implement an emergency right to counsel eviction program in areas highest hit by COVID so that vulnerable tenants can have a lawyer in their corner. Across the country states are using Coronavirus Relief Funds to fund a range of rental assistance and eviction prevention programs to ensure that communities hit hard by the pandemic can help residents to remain stable and in their homes. Full legal assistance is needed to navigate complicated and quick eviction court procedures which in this new era of Zoom hearings will present even more challenges to unrepresented people whose housing is at stake. Letter to Governor Baker
 
Take Action - Let the Governor Know You Support Right to Counsel
 
Please call, email, or tweet Governor Baker to urge him to support funding for a right to counsel pilot program. 
 
Call the Governor
Constituent Services Main Office (617) 725-4005; Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Toll-free in Massachusetts (888) 870-7770; Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Springfield Office (413) 784-1200 Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
TTY (617) 727-3666 Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Email the Governor 

Use the following link to get to a form to email the Governor.
 

Tweet the Governor

Here are some sample tweets that will reach the Governor. 

  • We are urging @MassGovernor to support emergency right to counsel program for low-income residents likely facing housing evictions when moratorium ends. #right2counsel #MassRight2Counsel #mapoli
     
  • In MA, 92% of tenants face eviction without legal representation, while 70% of landlords have lawyers.  When the eviction moratorium ends, vulnerable families will face evictions during a pandemic. We need emergency right to counsel. #MassRight2Counsel #mapoli 
     
  • Black & Latino families have been disproportionately hit by #COVID19’s housing, health & economic impacts, and will similarly be vulnerable to eviction & homelessness. Ask @MassGovernor to support an emergency right to counsel program. #right2counsel #MassRight2Counsel #mapoli

Here are some sample tweets that will reach the Governor. You can also use the image below in your tweet. 

  • We are urging @MassGovernor to support emergency right to counsel program for low-income residents likely facing housing evictions when moratorium ends. #right2counsel #MassRight2Counsel #mapoli
     
  • In MA, 92% of tenants face eviction without legal representation, while 70% of landlords have lawyers.  When the eviction moratorium ends, vulnerable families will face evictions during a pandemic. We need emergency right to counsel. #MassRight2Counsel #mapoli 
     
  • Black & Latino families have been disproportionately hit by #COVID19’s housing, health & economic impacts, and will similarly be vulnerable to eviction & homelessness. Ask @MassGovernor to support an emergency right to counsel program. #right2counsel #MassRight2Counsel #mapoli

Building Community Support -

The Massachusetts Right to Counsel Coalition represents more than 130 organizations that include community groups, tenant organizations, housing and legal aid advocates, large property owners, municipalities, women’s organizations, and many more. Please continue to reach out to your networks and urge organizations to support the RTC Coalition by clicking Support the Massachusetts Right to Counsel Coalition