The Responsibility of the Large Landlord

Digital Feature by Forrest Hangen, Dan O’Brien , Sarah Philbrick, Tim Reardon
December 2020

Metropolitan Area Planning Council   (Boston)

The possibility of a pandemic-related “eviction tsunami” has been widely discussed of late, as is the role that federal and state policy must play stemming it. Less prominent has been the discussion of the role that must be played by landlords in general – and, as our recent research has found – large landlords in particular.

The Boston Area Research Initiative (BARI) and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), in partnership with partners at the City of Boston’s Department of Neighborhood Development, have studied evictions in the City of Boston in 2015-16, and what we have found can inform local, state, and federal response to the current crisis.1

We categorized landlords by the number of units they own, classifying those with 20 to 99 units as “Large,” and those with 100 or more units as “Very Large.” We also determined whether the landlord in question is a corporate entity. This revealed that different types of landlords exhibit different patterns of eviction.

This work historically been hard to do, as eviction records are difficult to obtain; and many corporate landlords obscure their ownership by using many names and Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs) on official records. BARI conducted an in-depth analysis, linking corporations listed as owners in the property assessment records to official registration documents, thereby uncovering many of these ownership structures and linking together properties that are owned by the same entity but under different names.