A Superior Court judge has refused to end the state’s ban on evictions, arguing any harm to landlords is “far outweighed” by the potential harm that would be caused by putting an end to the evictions moratorium.
In his ruling Wednesday, Suffolk Superior Court Judge Paul Wilson declined to issue a preliminary injunction to stop the moratorium while the case proceeds. Wilson said the pause on evictions not only protects public health, but also the economic wellbeing of the commonwealth.
“The balance of harms and the public interest favor upholding the law to protect the public health and economic wellbeing of tenants and the public in general during this health and economic emergency,” Wilson wrote in the ruling.
Wednesday's decision is not a final ruling, though advocates say it could indicate what a final ruling will look like.
Mitch Matorin, one of two landlords challenging the evictions moratorium in both state and federal court, said he disagreed with the ruling but believes moratorium opponents have further options.
"We're reviewing Judge Wilson's decision,” Matorin said. "But I would anticipate that we're going to be appealing that."
Matorin said he still has hopes that the moratorium will be overturned by a federal judge who is hearing a similar case, in which Matorin is also a co-plaintiff. That judge will hear arguments next week from the Attorney General and lawyers representing Matorin and his co-plaintiff.
Groups defending the moratorium said today's decision is a step forward.
"Thousands of families at risk of eviction have called our hotline during the pandemic, and this decision allows them to keep a roof over their heads in the short run,” said Helen Matthews, a spokesperson for the housing advocacy group City Life/Vida Urbana, in a text message.
Matthews said to "prevent a full-on eviction crisis later this year,” the legislature needs to pass legislation to stabilize housing.
Joey Michalakes of Greater Boston Legal Services is one of the attorneys defending the moratorium. He said the judge’s decision affirms the argument that the evictions ban is about protecting the health of the state’s residents.
“One principle that was ratified today,” Michalakes said, "is how important it is not to have the [coronavirus] recovery be complicated by potentially a... wave of eviction filings than we would otherwise see.”
Landlords argue in both state and federal court documents that the evictions moratorium amounts to a “taking” by the state, one happening without any kind of compensation.
The evictions ban is slated to end October 17, though Gov. Charlie Baker could decide to extend it under pandemic emergency measures.