North Point building accounts for most evictions among residents, despite moratorium

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The Avalon North Point residential building is at the top of eviction cases sent to Cambridge District Court in early 2021. (Image: Google)

The owner of the huge luxury housing development Avalon North Point near Lechmere continues to file the most residential eviction cases of all Cambridge landlords, and many involve allegations that tenants violated Covid precautions -19 with loud parties. In the first three months of this year, Avalon North Point filed at least 22 eviction requests out of 24 residential cases in Cambridge District Court, with several other landlords adding 23 more cases in Housing Court.

It is not known if the party resulted in Covid-19 infections. Cambridge Public Health does not provide detailed information on where there are clusters of Covid-19 cases. East Cambridge has historically had one of the highest case rates among city neighborhoods; the city combines North Point with East Cambridge for the count. East Cambridge had the third highest rate of cases per 10,000 residents on Monday.

When it comes to evictions, overall, a flood of cases feared by tenant advocates after Gov. Charlie Baker allowed the state’s moratorium on evictions to expire last October has not materialized. materialized, the city’s housing liaison Maura Pensak said last week. “The reality is that there are still a relatively small number of evictions that have been filed in court for non-payment,” Pensak said. “I think the numbers are low because of the resources we have been able to provide. “

Business evictions

The Pyara Spa and Salon at 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Harvard Square, is battling an eviction case based on the limitations imposed on its business by the coronavirus. (Photo: Pyara Spa and Salon via Facebook)

Meanwhile, three companies are also facing eviction requests. One, Pyara Spa and Salon, lost its case in a trial in Cambridge District Court and the judge approved a judgment of $ 745,480. The salon is still operating and has asked the judge to reconsider his decision, his lawyer, Ryan Siden, said. No decision has yet been made in the cases of the other two companies: a foot massage parlor and a Japanese restaurant. Cambridge’s eviction moratorium applies to businesses as well as residents.

Pyara had to shut down for two months from March 2020 due to the governor’s lockdown order limiting capacity to 25%, Siden said. Rent was $ 29,000 a month in March and $ 36,000 since then, he said. Pyara secured a federal government payroll protection program loan of $ 419,427 last April to save 45 jobs, records show. Siden declined to comment on any government assistance received by the company.

Siden said he unsuccessfully argued in court that the government’s action was preventing Pyara from achieving the goal outlined in its rental agreement – to operate a lounge – so she was not required to pay a rent, and she couldn’t.

Coffee chain Caffe Nero used a similar argument, called “goal frustration,” in a deportation case in Suffolk Superior Court and won, Siden said. Retailers took courage in the decision. If the judge in the Pyara case does not reconsider, Siden said he plans to appeal.

Mayor’s fund and moratorium

As for the North Point property, the press office of its parent company, AvalonBay Communities, did not respond to an email last week asking if it had informed tenants of the city’s moratorium on evictions. and soliciting comments on the apparent conflict between tenant rights and the public. health. Pensak said: “The city takes any eviction action seriously, but we cannot comment on any specific situation. “

Resources cited by Pensak include two rounds of funding from the city’s $ 1.5 million Housing Stabilization Fund for renters and low-income homeowners who pay more than a set percentage of their income for housing in due to the pandemic. The Mayor’s Disaster Relief Fund has raised more than $ 4.7 million from donors to help residents affected by the pandemic.

The Stabilization Fund helped 200 tenants last year and is handling 100 cases this year, with applications still open, Pensak said; the city recently added $ 638,000. The Disaster Relief Fund has helped 550 residents, she said.

Work with owners

In addition to providing cash, the city is working with some managers of market-priced housing to avoid filing eviction cases, which can affect the ability of tenants to find housing even if they don’t. there is no legal judgment. Some of the companies have signed a “pledge” to do so, Pensak said. “We make sure that, especially for those who are struggling to pay their rent, they proactively send them to us,” she said.

Pensak declined to say how many owners have signed; it recognized the Cambridge Housing Authority for its “very strong rental preservation program”. The CHA has made it easier for tenants who lose their jobs to reduce their rent. Other affordable housing providers are also trying to avoid eviction requests, she said.

The city enacted a public health emergency rule last spring prohibiting the enforcement of eviction judgments for any reason; it applies to residential and commercial evictions. The moratorium does not prevent landlords from filing an eviction application, but if they win a judgment against a tenant, the rule prevents them from putting the tenant on the street.

Yet statistics compiled by the state’s judicial system indicate that nine eviction judgments for non-payment of rent have been enforced in Cambridge since the state’s moratorium expired. This would appear to violate city rule, although details of the cases are not available.

Spread the word

A judge should approve any execution, and a police officer or sheriff should execute it. The city has notified its appointed agents of the moratorium, Agent Albert Darling said. “I hardly ever do evictions,” he said. “There is a person who asked me to do it. I asked him to send me the papers. Everything was out of date. “

City attorney Nancy Glowa did not respond to an email asking whether the city had notified judges and police officers in district courts not appointed by Cambridge of the moratorium.

Another police officer, Bob Sweeney, said evictions “were a big part of my business.” The myriad of different rules in different communities confuses owners, he said. “It’s very sad when you go into a house and there are three or four… roommates and they say, ‘Fuck it’“ because of the moratorium, ”he said.

“City councils are politicians, they want to make everyone happy,” he said.

Kevin Maccioli, spokesman for Middlesex Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian, said the sheriff’s office was aware of the Cambridge moratorium on evictions and the office “is not currently carrying out evictions.”

State Magistrate Court spokesperson Erika Gully-Santiago was asked whether district court judges had been made aware of Cambridge’s deportations moratorium. Judges “are aware of local ordinances,” she said. She also provided a link to a list of tenant resources that she says the court provides to every tenant facing eviction. The list names local agencies, including the Cambridge Multi-Service Center, and legal and mediation services. It does not include local regulations such as the city’s moratorium on evictions, although the agencies on the list are aware of the moratorium.

On file

In a hearing Thursday in a North Point eviction case, neither the Cambridge District Court judge nor the North Point property attorney mentioned the moratorium.

The two young female defendants, who did not dispute that there had been a night out – although one said she was not there when it happened – ended up agreeing to leave at the end of their lease on May 31 and pay the landlord’s $ 250 fee to file the case. “We agree with that,” North Point lawyer Andrew Kepple told Cambridge District Court Judge Allen Swan. Kepple agreed to schedule the trial to continue on June 3, “and if they are gone I will dismiss the case … Property understands it was a mistake.”

“We don’t need to burn them with judgment,” he told the judge.

Not all North Point ownership involves partying. A tenant who did not show up for eviction trial in February got a judgment of $ 12,313 plus eviction; another resulted in a judgment of $ 14,139 and a post-trial deportation. Important judgments in lieu of court costs indicate that these cases concerned non-payment of rent. Court records available online did not indicate whether tenants lost their homes, although one case indicated that the tenant accepted the judgment. The North Point property charges luxury rents but houses low-income tenants under the city’s Inclusion Housing Ordinance.

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