Published on: May 23, 2018
Where a property manager initiated a summary process action to evict a tenant from a property on behalf of its client, he lacked standing to do so. The court also decided that the property manager was engaged in the unauthorized practice of law.
“Over the last decade, Fred Basile, a property manager, has 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. …
“… [W]e hold that Basile did not have standing to commence a summary process action in his own name against [defendant Shavonna M.] Williams, and that by signing and filing the complaint, he engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. … We further hold that his conduct in signing and filing the summary process complaint, without more, did not violate G.L.c. 93A. … At the same time, we also hold … 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. …
The case illustrates potential traps for property managers and the ultimate limitation of their authority when it comes to evictions and the practice of law.
Rental Property Management Services v. Hatcher (SJC 1373) Opinion [click here]
Ahmed-Kagzi v. Williams (SJC 12372) Opinion [click here]
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