Practice of Law. Summary Process. Practice, Civil, Summary
process, Standing. Jurisdiction, Summary process, Housing
Court. Housing Court, Jurisdiction. Consumer Protection Act,
Unfair or deceptive act.
D. Heisler for the defendant.
Stanley D. Komack (John B. Stewart & Jason R. Ferenc also
present) for Rental Property Management Services &
Patricia Whiting & Andrea Moon Park, for Harvard Legal
Aid Bureau & another, amici curiae, submitted a brief.
the last decade, Fred Basile, a property manager, has by his
own admission initiated more than ninety summary process
cases in his own name or in the name of his sole
proprietorship, in each case seeking to evict tenants from
properties that he does not own. This is one of those cases.
In another of those cases, Rental Prop. Mgt. Servs.
v. Hatcher, 479 Mass., (2018), decided today, we
held that Basile had no standing to bring a summary process
action in his own name when he was neither the owner nor the
lessor of the property. We also held that, to the extent that
he was acting as the agent of the property owner, Basile
engaged in the unauthorized practice of law by signing and
filing the complaint because he was not an attorney. I_d. at
. Finally, we held that Basile's conduct on its own did
not constitute an unfair or deceptive practice in violation
of G. L. c. 93A. I_d. at . For the reasons stated in
Hatcher, supra, we reach the same
2016, Basile filed a summary process complaint in the Housing
Court to evict Shavonna Williams from her home. Where the
complaint form asked for the name of the
"PLAINTIFF/LANDLORD/OWNER, " Basile wrote the name
of his sole proprietorship: "Rental Property Management
Services." Where the complaint asked for the name and
signature of the "Plaintiff or Attorney, " Basile
printed and signed his own name.
asserted counterclaims against Basile for the unauthorized
practice of law and violations of G. L. c. 93A. In answer to
Williams' request for admissions, Basile admitted that he
is neither the owner nor the lessor of the property in which
Williams resides,  and that he is not an attorney. He also
admitted that since 2007, he has initiated over ninety
summary process cases in his own name or in the name of
Rental Property Management Services with respect to
properties that he does not own.
moved for partial summary judgment on her c. 93A
counterclaims, arguing that by commencing a summary process
action against her when he was neither the owner nor the
lessor of the property, and was not an attorney, Basile had
committed an unfair and deceptive practice in violation of c.
93A. Loretta Hatcher, the tenant in Hatcher, 479
Mass. at, brought a similar motion, based on the same conduct
by Basile, and both motions were argued in the same hearing.
Although the cases were not consolidated, the judge ruled on
both motions in a single order.
judge found that it was undisputed that Basile was not the
owner or the lessor of the properties at issue, and therefore
concluded that both cases were subject to dismissal. The
judge enjoined Basile from commencing summary process actions
in his own name or in the name of Rental Property Management
Services with respect to properties he does not own or lease.
However, the judge denied the tenants' motions for
partial summary judgment and entered judgment in favor of
Basile on the tenants' c. 93A counterclaims, for reasons
summarized in detail in Hatcher, 479 Mass. at.
case presents the same legal issues as does Hatcher,
based on the same conduct by the same individual. For all the
reasons stated in Hatcher, we hold that Basile did
not have standing to commence a summary process action in his
own name against Williams, and that by signing and filing the
complaint, he engaged in the unauthorized practice of law.
See id. at . We further hold that his conduct in
signing and filing the summary process complaint, without
more, did not violate G. L. c. 93A. See i_d. at . At the same
time, we also hold, as we did in Hatcher, that where
a plaintiff seeks to evict a tenant without the standing to
do so, or where a person who is not authorized to practice
law signs and files a summary process complaint -- and where
that conduct is not inadvertent but by design, or part of a
pattern or practice -- a court has the inherent authority, in
the exercise of its sound discretion, to impose appropriate
sanctions, including attorney's fees and other costs, in
order to ensure the fair administration of justice and to
deter such conduct in the future. Id. at
order denying Williams' motion for partial summary
judgment and entering judgment in favor of Basile is
affirmed, and the case is remanded to the Housing Court judge
to determine whether sanctions are warranted against Basile
pursuant to the court's inherent power to ensure the fair
administration of justice and, if so, in what amount.