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Beacon Residential Management, LP v. R.P.

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk

September 14, 2017

BEACON RESIDENTIAL MANAGEMENT, LP
v.
R.P. [1]

          Heard: April 6, 2017.

         Summary Process. Complaint filed in the Boston Division of the Housing Court Department on July 27, 2015. A motion to intervene was heard by Jeffrey M. Winik, J.

         An application for leave to prosecute an interlocutory appeal was allowed in the Appeals Court by Gregory I. Massing, J. After review by the Appeals Court, the Supreme Judicial Court granted leave to obtain further appellate review.

          David Emer (Alison T. Holdway also present) for the mother.

          Therese Quijano for the plaintiff. Julia Devanthery, for Casa Myrna & another, amici curiae, submitted a brief.

          Dorothy Bourassa & Eileen M. Fava, for Women's Bar Association, amicus curiae, submitted a brief.

          Present: Gants, C.J., Lenk, Hines, Gaziano, Lowy, & Budd, JJ. [2]

          BUDD, J.

         In this case we consider whether a mother[3] has the right to intervene in an eviction action brought by a landlord against the mother's husband and their young children as the named defendants where, although she is not a named tenant on the lease, she has lived with her family in the apartment throughout the tenancy and alleges domestic violence in the home. We conclude that she may intervene both on her own behalf and on behalf of her children.[4]

         1. Background.

         This case is before us on the mother's appeal from the denial, by a judge of the Housing Court, of the her motion to intervene in a summary process action brought by Beacon Residential Management LP (Beacon), the agent of the apartment owner, Georgetowne Homes Two, L.L.C. (Georgetowne Homes) (collectively, landlord). We recite relevant allegations from the mother's motion to intervene and proposed answer, as supplemented by the testimony at the hearing before the motion judge. [5]

         In October, 2009, the mother, together with her husband, R.P., and their son, moved into a federally regulated and subsidized apartment in the Hyde Park section of Boston; the apartment was owned by Georgetowne Homes.[6] Initially both the mother and R.P. signed the lease. Soon thereafter the landlord informed them that the Federal government would not subsidize the rent due to the mother's immigration status; thereafter, the couple removed the mother from the lease.[7] At that time, February, 2010, R.P. remained in the apartment and signed a new lease for subsidized rent for himself and the son, and the mother and son moved to R.P.'s parents' home. The two returned to the apartment in June, 2010, but neither the mother nor R.P. took steps to amend the lease to include the mother as a household member.

         In June, 2012, the mother was approved as a permanent resident. She returned to the landlord's office with her immigration paperwork, including her green card, and asked the landlord to add her name to the lease. The landlord's policy was to give an "add-on" application to anyone who requested one, and the landlord's agent testified that had the mother completed an add-on application, she would have been added to the lease as a matter of course, as long as R.P. agreed. However, although the mother asked to be added to the lease, she was not given an add-on application. The mother testified that the landlord's agent told her that only R.P. could add her name to the lease. She further testified that R.P. refused to do so as a way of controlling her.

         On May 1, 2015, the mother obtained an abuse prevention order pursuant to G. L. c. 209A (209A order) against R.P..[8] The order required him to stay away from the apartment and from the mother's workplace; it also ordered him not to contact the mother or their two children[9] and granted full custody of the children to the mother. The order was subsequently extended for a full year.

         On May 26, 2015, the landlord served a notice to quit on R.P. and the two children. The notice stated that the mother was an "unauthorized individual" living in the apartment, and that she was "involved in a disturbance on the property."[10] In July, 2015, the landlord filed a summary process action in the Boston Division of the Housing Court Department based on the notice to quit. The mother filed a motion to intervene and a proposed answer, [11] arguing that the housing provisions of the Violence Against Women Act, 42 U.S.C. § 14043e-ll (2012 & Supp. II) (VAWA), and G. L. c. 239, § 2A, prohibited the eviction because it was predicated on domestic violence. See 42 U.S.C. § 14043e-ll (housing protections for victims of domestic violence).

         The landlord opposed the mother's motion to intervene, and the judge permitted both parties to introduce documents and testimony in an evidentiary hearing, at which the mother and the landlord's leasing agent testified. The judge issued oral findings in which he did not credit most of the mother's testimony and found that she and R.P. made a joint decision not to add her to the lease, to enjoy the benefit of lower rent. In addition, he found that the landlord's failure to give the mother an add-on application was due to negligence and not related to domestic violence, so the mother had not been discriminated against as an applicant under VAWA. As a result, the judge determined that the mother did not have an interest that allowed her to intervene as of right, but he allowed the mother to amend the motion to seek intervention on behalf of her children. He later denied the motion as amended, stating that the mother could not represent the children because she had acted fraudulently by living in the apartment without being named as a tenant on the lease. Finally, because R.P. did not appear, the judge entered a judgment of default.[12] The mother timely appealed to the Appeals Court the denial ...


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