On May 31st, members of the Chelsea Collaborative, Chelsea city councilors, workers rights activists and Chelsea Community members gathered for the unveiling of the Chelsea Collaborative’s new workers rights mural.
The mural creator, artist Nancy Guevara met with members of the Chelsea Latino Immigrant Committee an Environmental Chelsea Organizers a several times over the past few months to create the design for the mural. The mural is part of a statewide education campaign to bring more awareness to the worker’s rights violations that immigrant workers face throughout Massachusetts. Organizations like the Collaborative, have long been fighting issues of wage theft, especially in industries with a high level of subcontracting, where cleaning, construction and painting workers often see their wages and overtime stolen by predatory subcontractors.
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, MARCH 9, 2016....A plan to expand the Massachusetts Housing Court system has the support of at least 49 House lawmakers, who signed on to a letter urging budget writers to include funding for the initiative.
Gov. Charlie Baker's fiscal 2017 budget proposal appropriates $1 million in new funding for Housing Court expansion, and outside sections of the budget detail the restructuring of the court into six divisions that would serve all parts of the state.
Under current law, the court has five divisions and does not have jurisdiction to hear cases from Barnstable, Dukes and Nantucket counties or portions of Norfolk, Suffolk, and Middlesex counties.
About one-third of the state's residents do not have access to the Housing Court under this setup, according to Rep. Chris Walsh, who delivered a letter signed by 48 other representatives to the House Ways and Means Committee asking its members to include the $1 million in their version of the budget.
The letter says that the court, which hears cases including evictions, code enforcement, certain zoning appeals, small claims and civil actions, can help prevent homelessness and give municipalities the ability to "address serious housing and health code violations efficiently and effectively."
"This is an investment that makes fiscal and policy sense," the letter reads.
The $1 million for expansion of the Housing Court is separate from the court's $8.1 million budget, which Baker funded at the same level as in 2016.
Long before a flood inundated several floors of the Broadway Glen low-income high rise apartment building on Sept. 12, tenants said owners had allegedly sat on reoccurring problems that plagued the building, and tenants who are now displaced from the building are worried about what their apartments will look like when they return later this month.
Police are still looking for a suspect who is pictured on surveillance video opening a Fire Department standpipe in the stairwell of the sixth floor, unleashing thousands of gallons of water on the residents below and causing more than $500,000 in damages. Yet, as the police continue their investigation, tenants who have been displaced have been on a mission of their own to get the attention of a landlord they say has been unresponsive and hasn’t answered their questions.
“We heard the alarms go off, but we didn’t go out because the alarm goes off all the time,” said Jamie Vasquez, who has lived in the building for six years with her three young children. “We thought something was just wrong with the fire alarm again. Then I looked up and the water was coming out of the ceiling. I opened my door and water was everywhere. My closets were full of water. All of my kids’ clothes were ruined and had to be thrown away. We lost almost everything and we’ve been in a hotel every since. We were evacuating the building when we realized that a handicapped man was trapped inside. Nobody was here to help. The owners weren’t here. We went in and helped bring the handicapped man out. There wasn’t anyone else. I want some answers about all of this, but I don’t even get an apology. No one says they’re sorry.”
Tenants are now dealing with what to do with October’s rent payments, and an attorney has been brought in by the Chelsea Collaborative to advise tenants about what to do with rent and damages.
A long parade of speakers testified generally favorably Wednesday (May 27) before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary on companion bills (H.1656 and S.901) that would expand the jurisdiction of the Housing Court statewide.
The total cost of the proposal, which would involve hiring five judges, 10 to 15 housing specialists and other staff, has been estimated at $2.4 million. Advocates of the plan believe the expertise in the Housing Court allows for faster and better outcomes to landlord-tenant disputes than in the District Court, ultimately reducing homelessness. Fire official also backed the idea, saying that the Housing Court allows for code violations and potentially deadly safety hazards to be addressed more promptly.
BOSTON, MA (May 6, 2015)—Represented by Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS), seventeen Latino homeowners who paid money to an attorney for loan modifications they never received won a discrimination case at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) and were awarded compensatory and emotional distress damages of over $200,000. Attorney David Zak was found to have discriminated by specifically targeting Latinos for his services, believing them to be “stupid people” and “easy targets” who would pay him large sums of money upfront. In many cases, homeowners who paid money for loan modifications found themselves losing their homes to foreclosure instead. One person became homeless and had to live in his car, after paying Zak $8,000 for a loan modification.
The Chelsea Collaborative, a community organization dedicated to improving the lives of people in the Chelsea community, began hearing complaints about Zak from people in the Latino community in 2010. The Chelsea Collaborative received over 65 complaints and referred people to GBLS. The work of the Chelsea Collaborative in supporting the victims of Zak’s discrimination was invaluable in GBLS’ ability to represent the Latino homeowners and achieve justice for the victims.
avid Zak Targeted Homeowners with Deceptive Advertising and Charged Thousands in Illegal Advance Fees; Ordered to Cease Practices and Pay Civil Penalties and Consumer Restitution
BOSTON – A Revere attorney and his two businesses have been ordered to pay more than $625,000 for targeting homeowners with deceptive advertisements and demanding thousands in illegal advance fees for mortgage modification and foreclosure relief services they failed to deliver, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.
“At a time when homeowners were struggling to afford their mortgages, this attorney abused his clients’ trust and deliberately exploited their financial circumstances by demanding exorbitant fees based on false promises, leaving these homeowners even more vulnerable,” AG Healey said. “This judgment puts an end to these deceptive and unfair practices and confirms that those who seek to capitalize on the foreclosure crisis will be held accountable.”
The final judgment, issued by Suffolk Superior Court Judge Paul Wilson against David Zak and his businesses Zak Law Offices, P.C., and Loan Modification Group, Inc., finds defendants liable under the state’s Consumer Protection Act. The court found that the defendants preyed upon at-risk homeowners throughout Massachusetts who were facing the imminent loss of their homes, took unlawful advance fees based on deceptive guarantees that mortgage loans could be modified to prevent foreclosures.