New Online System Enables Landlords To Screen Tenants for Prior Evictions/Problems
After years of lobbying from rental housing groups, the Massachusetts Housing Court has finally announced a powerful new and free tool for tenant screening: public internet access to all Summary Process, Small Claims, Civil and Supplementary Process case types. Case information can be accessed via the Trial Court’s eAccess internet site at www.masscourts.org.
The site allows users to conduct searches by case type, case number or case name. Users can find detailed instructions on the Housing Court page of the Trial Court’s website. Electronic access to all publicly available case types also continues to be available at public access computers at the five Housing Court divisions and at courthouses throughout the state.
This new system will enable landlords to research whether a potential or current tenant has been a party to a previous eviction, small claims or related housing case. Obviously, a rental applicant with a lengthy eviction history would not be a good candidate for rental housing.
I would caution landlords that despite whatever information may be gleaned from the new system, the fair housing and discrimination laws still remain in place. Under Massachusetts law, a landlord cannot refuse to rent to a tenant on the basis of the tenant’s race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, sexual orientation, age, marital status, religion, military/veteran status, disability, receipt of public assistance, and children (except for an owner occupied two family dwelling).
Denial of rental applications must be based on non-discriminatory reasons, and a lengthy eviction history where the tenant was found liable for nonpayment or other serious violations of a lease would arguably qualify as such.
Richard D. Vetstein, Esq. is an experienced Massachusetts landlord tenant and eviction attorney. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 508-620-5352.