Saturday March 2, 2013

I am a landlord. I rented my house in Housatonic for the second time.

After several late rental payments I told the tenant that I would evict her if she failed to pay the rent and back rent the following month. She begged me not to do this and promised she would pay the rent and catch up within two months. She paid the rent the following month but then didn’t pay any rent until I finally got her out in February by going through the entire eviction process.

This was my first experience with the Housing Court and housing laws concerning eviction in Massachusetts. To say that they are slanted in favor of the tenant is an understatement (which obviously comes as no surprise to the hundreds of landlords in Massachusetts). After she left and vandalized the house (it cost $600 to clean) and stole the washer and dryer, two air conditioners, a BBQ and a door, I reported this to the police.

Unfortunately, she left no forwarding address and is not to be found. The fact that she was given so much protection and I was not makes me close to turning Republican. In the months between her not paying the rent and her moving out she reported me to the Health Department for various infractions and used the investigation as an excuse not to pay rent. She refused to let me inspect the house and I got no support from the court, and little from the police. If I had chosen to hire an attorney it would have cost me at least $1,000 more while she was provided an all expense paid legal trip by the state and free rent. She, in fact, signed a second lease stating that she would move out within 15 days if she failed to pay the rent on time but of course, this lease violated Massachusetts law so instead of 15 days, I had to wait five months before she left.

Something is wrong here. I’m all for protecting tenants but not for five months of free rent. While I was in court and spoke to other "landlords," who were mostly people who rented out a second home with a mortgage for some income, this story is far from unique. Something should change. I am out of the landlord business permanently.

DR. JON KOGEN

Great Barrington