Landlords file legal challenge to eviction moratorium

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BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts landlords have filed a legal challenge to the state’s moratorium on evictions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Landlords in a federal lawsuit filed this month argue the pause on evictions that was extended by Gov. Charlie Baker this week though mid-October, is unconstitutional, Richard Vetstein, an attorney for property owners, told the Boston Herald on Wednesday.

The defendants are the state and the state Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development.

The moratorium violates the constitutional right to petition the judiciary; the right of free speech under the First Amendment; the right to just compensation for an unlawful taking of their property under the Fifth Amendment; and is an unconstitutional impairment of their leases, Vetstein said.

Vetstein represents a nurse who is owed $20,000 in back rent.

“She’s a blue-collar nurse, and is in serious financial difficulty because of this,” Vetstein said. “When a tenant can’t pay, that burden flows down to the landlords.”

The state said it does not comment on pending litigation.

Baker on Wednesday defended the decision to extend the moratorium, saying the issue was compounded by lack of access to the courts.

Under the moratorium, tenants are still obligated to pay rent.

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UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIMS

While the resurgence of the coronavirus in some areas of the country sent the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits soaring last week for the first time in nearly four months, the number of new unemployment claims filed in Massachusetts continued to fall.

There were about 18,300 new claims for the week ending July 18, according to data released Thursday by the U.S. Employment and Training Administration.

That is about 10% of the number the state recorded in the last week of March, as the pandemic forced the shutdown of large portions of the state economy.

Nationally there were about 1.4 million jobless claims last week.

There were about 24,000 new claims filed in Massachusetts during the week ending July 11.

Massachusetts had the highest unemployment in the nation in June at 17.4%, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last week.

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