Constitutional Challenge to COVID-19 Eviction Moratorium Act Filed With SJC
Rental Property Owners File Emergency Petition with Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Asserting COVID-19 Eviction Moratorium Act Is Unconstitutional
Attorney Richard D. Vetstein and his colleague, Jordana Roubicek, Esq., have filed an Emergency Petition with the Supreme Judicial Court on behalf of two local rental property owners challenging the constitutionality of the recently passed, Act Providing For a Moratorium On Evictions and Foreclosures During the COVID-19 Emergency and the its regulations. A copy of the Petition can be viewed below.
As outlined in the Petition, the Eviction Moratorium Act imposes an unprecedented and indefinite shutdown of virtually every future and pending eviction case in the state, as well as prohibiting landlords from even issuing notices to quit. The Petitioners, two local rental property owners saddled with non-paying tenants whom they cannot evict, claim irreparable harm on behalf of themselves and all other similarly situated rental property owners across the state. The Petitioners assert the Act is an unconstitutional infringement on their constitutional right to access the courts and right to petition. They also claim the Act is an unconstitutional interference by the Legislature on the core functions of the courts. Further, the Act operates as a “taking” without just compensation because it forces rental property owners to house non-paying tenants without any recourse. Lastly, the Petitioners argue the Act violates the U.S. Constitution’s Contracts Clause as it unconstitutionally impairs their lease agreements.
The operation of the Act obligates rental property owners to pay their own mortgages, real estate taxes, insurance, and water/sewer used by non-paying tenants, and to maintain their properties and comply with the state sanitary code, while being effectively deprived of the revenue required to do those things. Given the unpredictable nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, this one-sided obligation and burden will continue indefinitely and quite possibly into 2021. Many small rental property owners, especially those on fixed income, rely on rents to afford to live in their own homes.
The Supreme Judicial Court is expected to take up the case next week, and will hopefully schedule it for hearing. I will provide you with updates of course.