Equity group: 91,000 Mass. tenants behind on rent, owe $335 million

BOSTON — Nicole Gobbi still has the keys to her apartment at Georgetowne Homes, but said she won’t for much longer. She said her landlord is forcing her out.

“They still sent me all the court papers. They even sent the constable out,” Gobbi said.

Beacon Communities LLC, owner of Georgetowne Homes, said it sent an undisclosed number of tenants Notice to Quit documents. In Massachusetts, a landlord must send a tenant a Notice to Quit before the landlord can proceed in the eviction process. Dara Kovel, CEO of Beacon Communities, said the residents have nothing to worry about.

“These notices are intended to reach residents behind on their rent who have not responded to other forms of our outreach,” Kovel said. “Upon receipt of ‘Notice to Quit,’ the resident has 30 days to contact management to apply for assistance, report a change in income or make a repayment plan.”

But the Greater Boston housing advocacy group City Life/Vida Urbana is worried more than 100 tenants could be on the brink of losing their homes. City Life held a rally with residents May 15 asking Beacon Communities to “stop the mass evictions.”

“City Life/Vida Urbana has knowingly mischaracterized a 30-day “Notice to Quit” that households received,” Kovel said. “Beacon Communities is working hard to help residents and remains committed to working with these residents to help them access these available funds.”

State housing advocates are concerned tens of thousands of Massachusetts tenants could lose their home after Gov. Charlies Baker’s State of Emergency expires June 15, followed by the end of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s eviction moratorium June 30.

“We see a crisis ahead. We see thousands of people at risk,” said City Life’s Interim Executive Director Denise Matthews-Turner.

The data-tracking group, National Equity Atlas estimates 91,000 Massachusetts households are behind on rent, owning more than $335 million.

“A lot of people fell behind during that period of time, some of them are still behind,” said Massachusetts Area Planning Council Executive Director Marc Draisen.

Draisen said eviction filings are ramping up across the state. According to data from the Massachusetts Trial Court Dashboard, landlords have filed hundreds of notices for non-payment in Worcester (760), Lowell (450), Dorchester (396), Framingham (299) and Brockton (283).

Draisen said tenants in trouble should apply for state renters assistance.

“We know tenants all over Massachusetts are looking for jobs,” Draisen said. “In the meantime, rental assistance is the best way to protect your family and protect your home.”

According to Matthews-Turner, the federal government sent Massachusetts around $900 million for renter assistance, but only about a third of that money has been distributed.

“We don’t want to see that money left on the table,” she said.

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