The ongoing expansion of the state Housing Court will arrive in Chelsea on Monday as the Housing Court has its first session on Monday, Sept. 30 in Chelsea District Court.
For decades, Housing Court has been located in Boston at the Brooke Courthouse, or residents could file in Chelsea District Court. However, Chelsea Court didn’t have the specialty services that Housing Court delivers, such as mediation sessions, and if residents couldn’t get to the Brooke, they often lost out.
That is not the case anymore, as Housing Court Chief Justice Tim Sullivan and Deputy Court Administrator Benjamin O. Adeyinka (also a Chelsea resident) announced they are ready to bring the court to the people.
“We will being our Chelsea session on Sept. 30 and every Monday thereafter as long as it works,” said Sullivan this week. “We believe if you build it, they will come. We believe is we establish a presence then the litigants will make use of the services. We think it’s going to be much more convenient, especially to people who feel constrained by transportation.”
The Court sessions will begin in Courtroom 2 in Chelsea, with Judge Marylou Muirhead presiding. They will also bring a Clerk Magistrate and a team of housing specialists – which includes mediation. Most of those on the team will also be bi-lingual as well.
The bulk of Housing Court business is summary process cases, which is basically evictions. There were 507 of those filed in Chelsea District Court last year, and Adeyinka said they are expecting that number to be about the same in the first year of operation of their court.
Most summary process cases go before the judge, and then are sent to special mediators who try to sort out a resolution between the tenant and landlord. That does the trick most times, but if not, the case can come back before the judge. If a trial is required, that would still have to happen in Boston where they can seat a 12-person jury. Likewise, any pre-trial conferences and initial case filings would be taking place in Boston.
Cell phones are not allowed in Chelsea Court, though they are allowed in the Brooke – it should be noted.
The expansion comes out of legislation passed in 2017 that allowed for the Housing Court to move into different areas, some places with new buildings and others with shared facilities like in Chelsea.
“Prior to 2017, there were still 84 cities and towns in the Commonwealth without any access to our court,” said Sullivan. “Interestingly, even though we began in Boston and Boston is in Suffolk County, no other Suffolk County communities were included. We believe if we can, we should immerse ourselves in the community…From my standpoint, one great aspect of Housing Court expansion is many communities we’re picking up include large numbers of rental units. Chelsea is certainly no exception. Our court can really serve that population in a very beneficial way.”
Another positive is for the City to be able to file Code Compliance cases with the Housing Court, including compliance for the building, sanitary and fire codes. That is a great aspect of the new Housing Court, and one that City officials were excited to use.
Sullivan said they are also trying to work with the Bar Association to implement a Lawyer for a Day program to provide assistance to the many litigants that show up without representation.
He said he has been extremely impressed with the cooperation from the Trial Courts and all of the community stakeholders in Chelsea.
“None of this could have happened without all of them,” said Sullivan.