Heard: January 7, 2019.
Process. Complaint filed in the Eastern Division of the
Housing Court Department on June 9, 2014.
motion to issue execution, filed on December 11, 2017, was
heard by Jeffrey M. Winik, J. The Supreme Judicial Court on
its own initiative transferred the case from the Appeals
E. Devanthery for the tenant.
Michael J. Louis (Angela Marcolina also present) for the
following submitted briefs for amici curiae:
S. Park, Linda S. Morris, & Lenora M. Lapidus, of New
York, Katherine E. Walz & Emily J. Coffey, of Illinois,
Karlo Ng & Renee Williams, of California, & Ruth A.
Bourquin for American Civil Liberties Union & others.
Richard M.W. Bauer, Jamie Ann Sabino, Kristyn M. Bunce
DeFilipp, Michael J. Licker, & Rachel L. Davidson for
Massachusetts Domestic Violence and Housing Advocates.
Caitlin P. Milone & Jeffrey C. Turk for Greater Boston
Real Estate Board & another.
Present: Gants, C.J., Lenk, Gaziano, Lowy, Budd, Cypher,
& Kafker, JJ.
Federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), as amended, is a
comprehensive statute designed to combat violence against
women in its many forms. See 34 U.S.C. §§ 12291 et
seq.Among other safeguards provided by
VAWA, the statute, as reauthorized in 2013 and implemented by
the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development
(HUD) regulations, protects tenants or otherwise qualified
applicants of housing assistance under a covered housing
program from being denied or evicted from
housing "on the basis that the applicant or tenant is or
has been a victim of domestic violence." 34 U.S.C.
§ 12491(b)(1). See 24 C.F.R. § 5.2005(b).
Y.A., an alleged victim of domestic violence, appealed from a
lower court judge's order of execution on the fifth
agreement for judgment between Y.A. and the Boston Housing
Authority (BHA), a covered housing provider.' Y.A. argued that the
motion judge failed to consider whether the alleged breach of
the agreement for judgment was a direct result of domestic
violence. On April 16, 2019, we issued an order to the
Eastern Division of the Housing Court Department: "The
January 12, 2018, order allowing the [BHA's] motion to
issue execution is reversed. The matter is remanded to the
Housing Court for further proceedings consistent with the
opinion to follow." This opinion sets forth the reasons
for the order.
has resided in the BHA's subsidized housing since October
2013. Following nonpayment of rent,  the BHA served Y.A.
with a notice to quit on March 27, 2014. On June 9, 2014, the
BHA initiated a summary process (eviction) action in the
hearing date, the parties entered into an agreement for
judgment, which suspended the eviction action on the
condition that Y.A. make a fixed monthly payment for use and
occupancy and for rent arrearage. The parties agreed that if
Y.A. failed to adhere to the payment schedule, the BHA could
revive the eviction process by moving for the issuance of
execution for possession of the premises, and damages owed,
including costs and interest.
failed to make the required payments under the agreement,
 and BHA moved for an issuance of
execution. On September 10, 2014, the parties entered into an
amended agreement for judgment with new payment terms. Over
the course of the following three years, the parties entered
into a total of five agreements for judgment, each
precipitated by Y.A.'s failure to adhere to the
agreed-upon payments and the BHA's motions for issuance
of execution. After Y.A. violated the fifth agreement, the
BHA filed the instant motion for issuance of execution on
December 11, 2017.
hearing on the motion was held on January 10, 2018, at which
time Y.A. stated that she was working with an agency to help
pay the rent arrearage. When asked by the judge why she had
made only one payment since the date of the final agreement,
"I was in an abus[ive] relationship. He would take
everything from me. One day I decide[d] to stop that. I
called the police on him. I'm . . . trying to deal with a
restraining order, and now I'm trying to get back all my
life together because I do not want to be in a relationship
like that. He would take -- I've lost everything already.
I'm about to lose my apartment. I don't want
judge then asked Y.A. if she had spoken to the property
manager at any point about the abusive relationship after she
signed the final agreement, to which Y.A. responded:
"No. . . . I go in the office one time, but, after that,
I tried to figure it out like how I'm going to pay the
rent and how I'm going to do all this."
judge allowed the BHA's motion, finding that Y.A.'s
failure to make the required payments set forth in the final
agreement constituted a violation of a material term of the
agreement and that the BHA had "acted reasonably and
cannot be expected to do any more." See G. L. c. 239,
§ 10. The judge made no reference to Y.A.'s
statements regarding the alleged abusive ...