Getting Answers: steps to take for renters facing evictions

Our renters rights series continues tonight as we are looking further into evictions and best tips for those who might be dealing with the issue.
Published: May. 17, 2022 at 6:15 PM EDT|Updated: May. 17, 2022 at 6:48 PM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - Rose Webster-Smith is the program director at Springfield No One Leaves, a non-profit organization that helps residents affected by housing issues such as evictions.

“We organize using a sword and shield model, so the sword being the people power, so direct actions, protests, and the shield, we have nine volunteer attorneys who volunteer their time,” Webster-Smith noted.

Webster-Smith, also a former member of Springfield No One Leaves, told Western Mass News that they have over 500 active members and are witnessing an uptick in people in need of assistance. Specifically, the program is seeing more people being served no fault evictions when the landlord can end a tenancy at any time.

“In Massachusetts, you don’t have to do anything wrong in order for a landlord to evict you. We are a no cause state,” Webster-Smith explained.

We asked Webster-Smith what type of help they provide for those facing evictions. She said they first start with a ‘Know Your Rights’ training quiz where they teach tenants their rights as a renter and what action they can take against landlords if they are having problems with them.

Their services continue with “We do an intake with them because we want to see who their landlord is, if we have other members who have the same landlord, so we can collectivize their fight and then we figure out where they’re out - are they already in court? Are they about to be in court or did they just get the scary letter that tells you that you have a certain amount of days to leave,” Webster-Smith added.

The main goal of Springfield No One Leaves is to help those with housing issues, but also to provide constant support from everyone apart of the group.

“Sometimes, the attorneys will take their case and represent them. We have no control over whose cases they take, but then they have a whole community around them who will stand up and fight with them,” Webster-Smith said.

One local attorney is also sharing his insight into the evictions process.

“Once you get served with a notice to quit, which is the first step, you don’t automatically have to leave. You don’t have to leave until a judge says to you have to be out, in which case you’ll get all sorts of notice and things like that,” said Attorney Randy Milou.

Milou told us that a good tenant can successfully negotiate and communication is key right off the bat. He said the reasoning of the eviction is also important when putting a defense together.

“Let’s talk about this. What are the reasons of notice to quit? Is it because you’re late in your rent? And that brings up a whole other thing or is it because you’ve done something? Or is it simply because the landlord owns the property, and they want the property back?...If it’s something you are being wrongly evicted for, well, you start to gather your witnesses. You gather your evidence and put together all the information that you need when you go to court,” Milou added.

As for resources people can use locally, Webster-Smith said, “Reach out to your local community organizations, your regionals like Way Finders…You can come to us, you can call community legal aide. If they’re unable to take your case, you can come to us and you can meet with one of our volunteer attorneys to get assistance to assert your rights.”